Monthly Archives: May 2009

The Big Lie

Monday, 10:45am
Sydney, Australia

Howdy…

Special guest-star post today… by my old buddy David Garfinkel (“Garf” to those us lucky enough to be close friends).

Garf has been my First Choice as “wingman” for the last half-dozen seminars I’ve given (including the Copywriting Sweatshops, the Hot Seat Marketing Makeovers, and particularly the Simple Writing System main event).

So, while I’m traipsing around Australia, scrambling to meet my seminar obligations while driving on the wrong side of the road in 3 major cities…

… I’ve asked Garf to write a guest post for y’all.

Without further ado… here ’tis:

Want To Know The Dark Secrets Behind Monster Success?

It’s Not Pretty.

By David Garfinkel

The Big Lie.

People say it different ways.

It usually starts out: “It must be nice to… “

And then they finish it with…

“… be born into a rich family.”

“… have such a natural talent.”

“… have genes that make you look like a god (goddess).”

And so on.

Well, part of it is true.

Some people are damned lucky. They don’t face the same struggles regular people do.

But an ugly and dangerous assumption lies underneath all of this.

You see the assumption played out in movies. In schoolrooms. In glossy magazine articles.

You hear it in the rumbling, grumbling soundtrack of your own subconscious mind. Hey, the powers that be have spent enough money, time, and effort spreading this Big Lie into the mass consciousness, everywhere you turn. Of course it’s going to be embedded in your deepest thoughts.

The assumption goes like this:Continue Reading

Photo Orgy

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Thursday, 10:06pm
Reno, NV
“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” (Ansel Adams)

Howdy…

I grew up in a photo-loving family.

Pop still has his trusty Kodak folding camera — a true antique now — and I cannot yet bring myself to dig through that box in the garage with all my old cameras (cuz I know it’s time to start assigning them new fates somewhere else).

I swear to you I still have a box of Polaroid film in the butter drawer of the fridge. Might even be the last batch they ever made (and R.I.P. Polaroid, dear departed friend).

Mom was the photo archivist of the family, and even as other families gravitated toward 16mm film, I retained a purist’s preference for the snapshot over the home movie.

(Side note: I remember meeting someone 20 years ago who mentioned that they were on video from the moment of their birth, and it was unsettling.

Now, it’s rare to meet anyone under the age of 30 who isn’t cataloged on film through their entire childhood. I can’t even imagine watching myself being born. I have a hard time watching old seminar footage of me from ten years ago, for cryin’ out loud.

Anyone out there hauling around a library of self-referenced film with them? What’s it like?)

I believe I fell in love with photography the moment I saw my first photograph… and realized it was actually a moment in time captured forever.

And I formed some very intense ideas about what makes a “good” photograph as a third-grader thumbing through the still-amazing stack of Nazi photos Pop brought home from his stint as a rifleman during WWII.

(There’s no way to tell for sure, but those two dozen shots seem to be a German officer’s front-line cache of “Here’s what I did during the War” snapshots. Fascinating subject material that forced us to imagine what the story actually was behind those uniformed men… especially the one with the open bullet wound in the dorsal lat.)

As I grew up, I would become captivated by very few photos in the piles coming back from the drugstore of family and friends and pets and outings.

I never questioned why I found those few snapshots so iconic.

Later, one of my first jobs in advertising was overseeing the photography for a computer supply catalog every quarter.

That job meant gathering all the equipment (cables, monitors, furniture, floppies, etc) and spending a week or so with a professional photographer in Palo Alto trying to make plastic crap look good.

(I won’t bore you with the hassle that pre-digital photography presented — the need to refrigerate film, manually load it, and nurture it like a fragile duck egg until it could be color-separated and made “camera-ready”, which means ready for the printer to fuss with during the offset process of applying wave after wave of ink until the correct color was achieved.)

(Okay, sorry, I think I just bored you there.)

Anyway… I learned a lot about the technical aspects of photography (like using mashed potatoes as a substitute for ice cream, cuz the real treat wouldn’t survive under the required hot lights for a good shot).

Pro photographers in the ad field earned big bucks. They knew the voodoo.

But you know what?Continue Reading

Yo, Aussies!

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Thursday, 7:55pm
Reno, NV
“It was never part of our plans not to play well… it just happened that way.” (Ron Barassi, Hall O’ Fame footballer & Carlton coach)

G’day, mates.

In about 10 days, my biz partner Stan will morph into Road Dog Stan, and we’ll both be off to the Land Down Unda.

Three weekends, three cities, three seminars to speak at.

We fly into Sydney… will drive up to Melbourne (where my old pal Ed Dale has previously shown me the amazing hospitality Oz residents offer)…

… then fly up to Brisbane (“Brzbin” to locals, I hear).

I’m kinda freaked just listing it all out. Fortunately, Stan and I have left our womenfolk behind many times before to go trudging off like Victorian explorers… into the dense, scary jungles of Seminar Land.

Armed only with laptops, Powerpoint, iPhones, wireless cards, Kindles, iPods, Dopp kits and a wad of clothes stuffed into carry-ons.

I’m telling you, it’s almost barbaric, the way we have to live by our wits in luxury hotels and biz class jets.

I really empathize with Livingstone and Stanley. (Or was that Stanley and Oliver?)

We will be one step above subsistence on the Maslow scale.

So hey…Continue Reading

What's On Your Mind?

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Thursday, 10:45pm
Reno, NV
“That is just too fuckin’ pretty to be real.” (Bob the drummer)

Howdy…

Sorry for the profanity in the above quote, but that’s what he said.

It was around 15 years ago, in the midst of my 3rd mid-life crisis.

I’d dropped out of advertising for a while — wasn’t sure how long I’d be floating, and gave no forwarding address to old clients — and was living off royalties and nurturing the power-trio rock band I’d formed over the prior months.

We were hanging out by the van — sober, if you must ask — after setting up in yet another filthy biker bar on one of the nastier streets in Reno, killing time until the joint filled up and we could start playing.

Mid-May here in the high desert — nestled in the bosom of the Sierra Nevadas, just below Lake Tahoe — can take your breath away.

The sun had just set, and the sky glowed with that special ambient dusk-glow that made the whole world seem like a dream from the bottom of the ocean.

We all stopped, mid-lies and mid-guffaws, and drank in that certain kind of alive-ness you can only access when you’re outside during the sun-to-stars changing of the guard.

Friday late afternoons have given me a visceral thrill since I was a kid. For most of the culture, it was time to wind down, go home and settle in for the evening. For the rest of us — the night owls and the rebels and the wayward uneasy souls — the day was just getting good.

So we remained silent for a long time, just gazing at the sky and enjoying being exactly where we were, about to do exactly what was coming up.

I won’t even try to describe the sky. Like I said — high desert, spring, mountain-filled horizons…

Bob the drummer broke the silence.

“That is just too fuckin’ pretty to be real,” he said.

And yet, there it was. As real as you or me.

I thought about that scene this afternoon as Michele and I roared down the highway to go grab some cheap Chinese food for dinner. We had the top down, and the gathering dusk swirled through the car and around my heart.

It might have been exactly this day in May, 15 years ago, that Bob said that.

But tonight, it feels like it was just minutes ago.

Why am I telling you this?

Because… Continue Reading

Myth Busting

Tuesday, 12:59pm
Reno, NV
“You’ll lose 20 pounds while you sleep!”
(Go-straight-to-jail diet-ad lingo that nevertheless pops up every couple of years)

Howdy…

You know what?

I haven’t pissed anybody off in a while. So let’s see if we can’t rile up the mob a little bit, cause a little unrest in the ranks.

The best way to do this, of course, is to lift the blinders most people wear 24/7… and force them to face some uncomfortable truth or another.

Pop some bubbles. Expose the myths.

Oh, people HATE it when you harsh their zombie mellow… and snatch away their cuddly delusions.

Some may thank you later for the wake-up call. But most will snarl and bite, and rush back to the warm embrace of the dream they’ve languished in their entire life.

To be a great marketer, Continue Reading


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