Friday, August 24, 2007

Fuck the wheel.

"No need to reinvent the wheel here."

I heard this glorious phrase used not once, but twice yesterday.

Mind you, I work at what is supposed to be a "creative agency."

The first was during a presentation to a client. We were extolling the endless and bountiful benefits of our usability testing for web sites.

We were showing this (new) client some work created for a different client that had benefited from this wonderful testing.

So, naturally, we should do the same thing for this newer client. After all, we've got the process down, we know it worked before and that it will work again. It'll be very quick and painless. And there is was on the screen in orange, 24-point Futura: "No need to reinvent the wheel."

The other time was when I passed someone in the hall:
"Look, there's no reason to reinvent the wheel here."

I don't know what the context was.

Nor do I care.

Maybe, just maybe, the wheel isn't perfect. Have you ever thought of that?

How about looking at it from a different point of view? The wheel has already been invented. Why not invent something else? Something new. Perhaps something even better.

"Better than the wheel? Impossible! The wheel is the ultimate invention; it needs no updating. Why else do we cite it as an example? It's perfection!"

Here's a thought.

Why not at least try to create something better? Or, if not better, something original?

Something that we can mold and claim and own and cherish and love?

For once, let's do away with what we know.

Let's create something. Anything.


For starters, let's create a new process. One that encourages thinking and ideas over white paper and PowerPoint production. A process by which our clients and our agency as a whole can benefit and succeed.

And even believe in.

Agencies the world over do it. They are able to pay the bills and their employees by creating and producing beautiful ideas.

Of course, this agency talks that game. They've even dropped names like "Crispin" and "Wieden" and "Goodby" and that these agencies all, at one point or another, started small. And look at them now.

Well, unfortunately, we're not small. Far from it.

Boutique we ain't.

That doesn't stop the higher-ups, though. They keep talking the talk. But have yet to take that first step towards walking the walk.

Here's the thing. We could.

But not with our current process.

You know, the one that coaxes egos and maximizes process and widens margins and stifles imaginations and encourages turnover. The one that encourages quantity over quality, billable hours over original thinking. The one that fucks with your head and whittles away at your soul and deadens your desire to do great work.

That process sucks.

But it's not really process's fault. Process is, by it's very nature and definition, easy. It's a map. A guide. A way to go from point A to point B in as little effort as possible. No one loses their way.

That's a great thing when the end result is brilliance.

It's an abominable thing when the end result is uninspiring. At best.

Because that's the thing about process. It's a scientific shortcut of sorts. It's streamlined and efficient and lots of other business catchphrases that we are so often forced to use with our technology clients.

It's also staid.

It's familiar.

It's easy.

Unless the process is designed for and around the creation of great work. Otherwise, it's just means to an end, the path of least resistance.

Why must it be this way? How about some original thinking?

One word.


After all, doing something that's never been done before requires a person to feel--and enjoy--that sinking feeling in their stomach. The one that tells them that maybe this idea really isn't such a good one after all.

The one that says, "Screw the cost; we're doing it because it's the right way. It might piss some people off. Hell, we might even fail. But at least we tried to do it right."

But it's also the same idea that makes their pulse quicken and heart flutter and pupils widen.

Because they know that, a primal and visceral level, that their idea is a good one.

There's no path. No coordinates. No way-points. No way of knowing much it'll cost, how it will end or when it will turn a profit.

But that's the price of leadership.

Of doing something no one else has done.

Let's make our work unique and original works of art and technology and interactivity that benefit our clients and ourselves. Let's take a chance and move forward without any notion of what we'll find. Let's turn off the lights and stumble around with nothing but our senses and instincts to guide us.

Let's create something.

Let's reinvent the wheel.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Andy's Choice

Let's call it an addendum to my previous post.

About a week has gone by since I wrote it.

And in that week, my mom has since joined the crusade to figure out what the hell is going on with my dad. Actually, it's not so much trying to figure out what's going on with him as it is to keep it from interfering with me.

To date, I haven't spoken to my dad in 9 years.

I think the last real conversation we had was back when I was going under the knife to get a small sample of brain tumor extracted from my brain stem to find out whether I had six months to live or 60.

Long story short, to his credit, he showed up, even pledging that he would be there the entire time. Well, the day before the surgery, I had a pre-op screening where the I had little pieces of my scalp shaved and then little sticky sensors placed in the newly shorn spot. Apparently this helps my docs not cut the wrong pieces out. Whatever. After the appointment, I flat out lose it; the stress and enormity of the situation came to a head and I let the world know by storming out of the hospital and breaking one of those automatic doors (hey, it's not my fault they close so quickly).

In the ensuing rant, I started peeling those little sensors off of my head and was screaming that I wasn't going through with it. Of course, I didn't mean it. Well, maybe I did. But I knew in my heart that I would be going back. Well, I left on a bus and took off for a few hours, leaving my mom and dad in what I have to assume was one of the most painfully awkward silences ever recorded.

Well, my dad took it to heart and immediately changed his departure ticket to the following morning. You know, the one that involved copious amounts of anesthesia and bone saws and honed scalpel blades.

Of course, I was pretty much devastated to learn that he was leaving, especially since I hadn't seen him for a while. But I nodded in agreement. After all, I did say that I wasn't going through with it. In the middle of the street. Outside of the hospital. With anxious patients and nervous security guards looking on. It was all very subtle. How else was he supposed to know I didn't really mean it?

Well, he leaves, they cut, they extract, I wake up four or five days later.

And he was the first person I called for in my haze.

Fast forward to this past weekend. My mom tracks him down, explains he needs to call us because something's going wrong. He calls my house, Jaime answers, and he tells her he'll take care of everything.

He never asks to speak to me.
Never asks about me.

Jaime tells him he's about to be a grandfather.

He tells her that's wonderful.

And now, a week later, I get an email. It basically summarizes that situation and that it has nothing to do with me.

Oh, and congratulations on December 11th.

So, the question is, do I write back or not? Do I open the door only to have him shut it when it's most convenient? Or, do I give him a little taste of his own medicine, and let him wonder what could have been for the next 9 years?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Thanks a lot.

First, you bestow upon me the glorious honor of carrying your entire name.

Next, you divorce my mom.

Then, you move two states away.

Then, we move ten states away.

You're on the Gulf Coast.

We're on the west coast.

Then, I don't hear from you for years.

Then you come up and show your "support" during my surgeries.

You hastily make an excuse as to why you need to leave.

And then you disappear from the face of the fucking planet.

Which was and is fine with me.

And then we get a letter from the jolly old IRS.

Oh? What's that? I'm wanted for tax evasion? In 1996?

I didn't even work then.

Oh, here's the problem, they've got the SSN mixed up.

"Hello, IRS? Yes, there seems to be a problem. See, my dad and I have the same name, and I think there's been a bit of a mixup here. So if you could just correct that and make sure we're not on your Most Wanted list, that'd be great. Thanks."

And then we check our bank account.

And we find out that some of our wages have been garnished by none other than the US fucking GOVERNMENT for tax evasion.

All because YOU, my ever so fucking caring, responsible, socially inept sperm donor of a fucking father, isn't paying his freaking taxes!

You asshole.

This is your legacy?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Cool stuff of late

It's been slow at work, so in between mountain bike forum perusing (if you haven't been to, and you love to ride singletrack, I implore you to check it out), I've also been checking out what the rest of the ad world has been up to.

This practice, by the way, used to be mandatory for me. Every morning, I'd get to work, and check out various ad blogs to see some of the latest work. Unfortunately, this desire of all but shrivled up and died inside of me.

I think it was after the third straight brochure followed up by a product tech manual that might have done this.

However, for some reason I've been feeling a bit better about things. Not sure why, but I'm not questioning it. Which has also reignited my creative side; I can't get enough of some great work that I've been seeing.

Here's one that I think is phenomenal (came from Steve and Angela over at AdRants):

Then there's two new Axe campaigns that are very cool:
Let The Game Continue
and AxeVise.

This, supposedly, is a PSA. Real or fake, I think it's brilliant in the way it's communicating to its audience (thanks again to AdRants):

Read a Book

Posted Jul 12, 2007

And then there's this:

That's just freaking cool.

I hate eBay

At one point in time, it was a great place to find things that have actually been USED and therefore are cheaper.

Now it's just a bunch of stores that list everything they sell as "NIB" and "Buy It Now". What happened to the USED stuff?

This, though, is perfect.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Robert Frost is turning in his grave...

So much to say. Too much space to say it.

White space. So nice and clean. An empty canvas.

And I come in and fuck it all up with pointless ramblings and poor attempts at humor.

How did it come to this?

I think I was happy at one point.

I used to come to work, excited by the very prospect of working in a real life advertising agency.

Unfortunately, I'm still searching for a real life advertising agency.

I used to believe.

That the idea was king.

And that, most importantly, everyone from the overeager intern to, yes, even the bewildered client believed in the paramount importance of the idea.

That a great idea can inspire.

Change. Encourage. Persuade.

Even enlighten.

Unfortunately, this belief, this mantra is always received with condescending smiles and nodding heads.

"Oh, look," they think. "Another young, idealistic creative. How cute."

They've been there. It's why they understand your desire and appreciate your passion. But they know better.

They've fought carefully chosen battles and may have even won a few. But they're hardened, weary from endless meetings and pointless client ramblings and clueless account managers.

They know the "real" advertising world, and it's the one where the bottom line, not the idea, is top dog.

It's the one where they would never, under any circumstance or amount of wasted time and work, fire the client.

After all, that makes paying bills a lot more difficult.

But, in the end, much more satisfying.

The path of least resistance.

The road most traveled.

The way it should never be.

And yet it's what I've become.