Manatees and the Gator Aggravator

(The following isn't about advertising, but the call to care for all things. Though I'm sure it's part of my story that influenced why I care about the advertising industry, too.)

We moved to Crystal River, Florida, when I turned twelve. We were poor and running but Mom kept her head on straight and gave us room to thrive as best as she could.

I quickly discovered the water, living as we did a hundred yards from streams and marshes that within a quarter of a mile connected to the Crystal River itself. We’d frequent its shoreline beaches and famous springs and occasionally go boating with friends or fellow church members. Drifting across the intersection of inlets and outlets and jumping from the bow of a pontoon boat into hot Florida sun and bone-cold spring-fed water bring back good memories. What a marvelous place to frolic when you live in government housing.

Those were my middle school years and play wasn’t always mother-approved. Read the rest of this article at

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Bob Garfield and a call for prophets

~ Frustration and gathering disgust that, despite the best of all forums for evaluating ad strategy and execution, my core principles espoused over a quarter century...seem to have had little or no effect on the practice of the craft. I continue to be awed and humbled by the best of what the industry produces. But I also think billions of client dollars every year are being squandered by narcissists, conmen, naifs and a number of blithering morons.

These sobering words come from Bob Garfield's list of reasons for ending AdReview, an industry-wide recognized column he began in 1975 in Advertising Age and ended last month.

If you've followed Garfield, you know that he's stirred the pot for two and a half decades. He has a cranky tone and his criticism often felt like grains of sand in your eye. Just when you think he'd let up, he'd blow more at you. Readers hurled their irritations back at him for years and his farewell post reflects this volatile relationship.

Yet he had his fans. Whether he pushed hard because it gave him a cheap thrill, or because ranting produced more site hits, or simply because he cared, Garfield was committed to cleaning house and there are plenty who loved him for it. I didn't always agree with him, but I admired his steadfast pursuit of better.

I believe advertisers can become good neighbors to the consumer next door. The prophetic work, however, can't be left to Bob Garfield and a few other nicer/nastier culture critics. It has to be done by all of us - the shelf-stockers and cart-fillers, the ad-making pied pipers and tune-entranced consumers, the bankers and parishioners. We're all in this business of discerning want and need and of serving our selves and others. There is room for satisfying both, yet the Great Commandments require enough from us that, if we all responded appropriately and constantly, we should see change.

Could the collective We reflect on our prophetic and lived-out response 25 years from now and be able to rewrite Garfield's frustration? I don't know, but we're still called to try.


Chasing Cool in Calling

From Chasing Cool: Standing Out in Today's Cluttered Marketplace:

Remember, the etymology of the word brand comes from the Old English for 'burn.' It's defined in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary as 'a mark made by burning with a hot iron to attest manufacture or quality or to designate ownership.' A brand comes from a long-standing commitment and vision. It's not a reverse-engineering process quickly generated through trendy gimmicks."

I try to commit to the worthwhile. Life is too short and people too important for me to waste time and talent manufacturing what I'll regret branding. I want my stamp to count. Gimmicks tempt me but I know better than to invite them into the work I've been called to do.

Okay, so maybe I occaaaasionally give in to a gimmick. Perhaps you'll tell me if it's an unfitting one?


What you see is what you cry about

Alice and I went to Target the other night for a few odds (Zhu Zhu pet) and ends (toilet paper).  Heh heh.

She's six and wants good toilet paper, it seems, as she almost cried when I picked the store brand. She had made her own selection and I wondered, What's so great about Charmin? I looked through the crinkled plastic and couldn't discern any noticeable difference. And both packages weighed the same.

Then the light kicked on and I had her walk down the long row of brands to tell me what she saw on each of them:

"More bears."
"Baby on a cloud."

And on my frugal choice? Nothing.


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