Flogging the rain to death

For anyone who lives in a city with real problems, let me fill you in on Los Angeles' most recent crisis: rain.

That's right. This week the skies opened up and poured down for hour after hour. Starting in the morning and going well into the night. The entire city was blanketed in an off-putting grey color that's so unbecoming of its usual sun-kissed self. Simply dreadful.

And the people of Los Angeles could not get enough of it. Every conversation held in the city pertained only to the rain. It was truly a remarkable event. Most people chose to hide in their homes or apartments hoping that this was just some bad dream.

But those brave souls who made it to work for this two day torrential downpour risked life and limb to do so. Aided by an app called Waze.

Here's a brief primer on Waze for anyone who doesn't live in a city with the congestion of a coal miner suffering from a sinus infection. Waze is a GPS program that finds you the quickest way to get to your destination. It uses real-time traffic stats from other users to determine these routes. It's a pretty nifty tool. There are only two rules. 

First, you have to adhere to Waze's directions absolutely. If you so much as take a right turn that it didn't call for you will be spited by the traffic gods and end up taking an additional 20 minutes to get where you're going. Waze knows. You obey. 

Second rule, you have to be a maniac to use it. Or at least willing to drive like one. Most of the time Waze is perfectly reasonable. It has no vested interest in putting you in harm's way. But every so often it'll have you make a maneuver that would make Jason Statham's Transporter's knees quake. Fun things like ask you to cross a busy 6-lane street at an stoplight-less intersection. Or take a left turn into an alleyway only visible under the third moon of the month. Anything to shave a few seconds off your drive time. And if you're thinking you can get around these directions, please refer back to rule number one.

That's Waze in a nutshell. And the way it determines these routes is based off of other drivers using the app. Waze encourages its users to report events on the road. It depends on these reports to keep your drive speedy. 

Those reports are what I want to talk about.

During my Tuesday morning commute I got an alert asking me to use caution because someone had reported rain.

"Watch out," it chirped, "rain reported ahead."

I laughed. Because it was funny. Adorable even. The All-Knowing Waze doesn't know how blatantly apparent the rain is. 

Then 15 minutes later a second alert popped up. From a different user. And a few minutes and miles later, a third. By this point in time the little alert of "Watch out! Rain reported ahead." was more of a gentle annoyance than pleasant thing I could laugh at.

The day progressed. The rain persisted. Finally it was time to leave work.

That's when the deluge of alerts came in as torrentially as the rain. It seemed I couldn't go a thousand feed without being alerted again.

"Watch out! Rain reported ahead."

"Watch out! Rain reported ahead."

"Watch out! Rain reported ahead."

And so on. What was a pretty funny joke just 10 hours before has turned into a verse from The Devine Comedy. The alerts would not stop. The users of Waze had killed the joke.It had reached saturation but people were trying to get a piece of that action. To feel witty. 

They fell prey to me-tooism. They'd flogged the rain to death.

And while my soundtrack of alerts played on I couldn't help but think of how this same phenomenon plagues advertising. People are so eager to jump onto the latest trend or style of joke. To repeat what they've seen. It's the case over and over. Commercials, banners, tweets, print ads, websites start to coalesce and become this homogeneous blob of things that were once interesting and humorous. Because it's really easy to see something that already exists, identity it as funny, and decide to use it. It makes it really, really easy to get out of the office around six and catch that thing that's so hot right now. (That's going to be bastardized by making it into some ad a couple of months down the line)

Sure, this process works but it also undersells the creativity that agencies have in them. It leads to the chief criticism of advertising that there is no creativity in the business of creativity. That we're a collection of recycled YouTube videos and catch phrases picked from existing media. To a certain extent that criticism is irrefutable. 

Watch out! Derivative creative work ahead.

As you walk down the street you can't help but notice a small but proud flower. "Father," you say, "Father, what's that?" He answers: that's the weekly linkly.

LAST GASPS AS THE FINAL PETAL FALLS FROM THE WITHERING ROSE

It's been an inordinate amount of time since I last wrote something for here. I mean really wrote something. While that has absolutely no impact on your life it bums me out. So I'm going to start doing all that jazz again. If for nothing more than it'll help me get thoughts out of my head and into the world wide internet. You didn't need a missive to tell you that but I thought that unless I wrote it here I wouldn't be accountable to do it. 

Thanks for still reading, if you still read.

PERENNIALS

  • Mark Fenske's blog. Wish this was around when I was cobbling together my own pseudo ad school during college. Oh well.

THOSE HUGE STINKY ORCHIDS THAT ONLY BLOOM EVERY SO OFTEN


Why all hipsters look the same. It's science! Or math! Or something. Just watch the video.


Lee Fields absolutely killing a takeaway show.


Building worlds and spinnin tales in Big Hero 6.


The dangers of whooping cough. From the always funny Hush Money.

There's gold in them links, Tobias. Gold I tell you. And I'll be goddamned if we don't get to them this week.

It's been a while. Which means there's going to be an onslaught of links. But all that means is that you all get tons of interesting stuff so why are you even complaining?

DEEP, DEEP WELLS
The Ad Contrarian's entire series about consumer behavior. Parts one, two, and three. It's an incredible well thought out jab in the eye of a lot of the current theories that drive advertising nonsense. It takes a while to read through all three pieces but I think it's definitely, definitely worth it.

DERRICKS

FRACKING

How to cut cheese.


Making of 'Music for Machines'

To remain hydrated, consume at least eight links weekly.

SIPS

Portraits of people before and after death

The Fred/Alan Archive. (You might know them from seeing the MTV logo ever.) via Vinny

Why good people are difficult. (i.e. Question everything.)

More posts about your relationships means more insecurity.

The genius of 'Idiocracy'

How one chef is making a generation of TV viewers want to be cannibals.

GULPS


Excellent new Toyota HiLux ad. (via Ant)


Ignorant rap music


Air Sex: The Movie


Documentary about a art forger who did it just to prove he could.

Can you tell me how to get there?

Today I was looking up directions to help people go fuck themselves. 

Because, well, I don't have to explain to you because. Just because, okay? Is that okay with you? Fine.

Well I did it by going to Google and typing in the words go and fuck and yourself. Never in a million years imagining anything would come up. Even with Safe Search off.

But good old Google didn't let me down. It yielded this delicious result that I don't think even the leading SEO experts could accomplish.

Nice work AVN. Very nice work.

The rain beats against our weeks with only links to huddle under.

A TORRENTIAL ONSLAUGHT OF WORDS

Dave Dye interviews Dave Trott. (And if you don't know what that means you need to read it right now.)

David Abbott's 1994 memo that's just as relevant today as when it was written. Except maybe it's more relevant because we don't even have a David Abbott to write stuff like this anymore.

Props master tells you how he decides what to go with for lots of great TV shows.

Malkovich becomes every famous photograph.

Tim Hortons turns a regular, everyday house into a working coffee shop. The neighbors must be thrilled.

Soderbergh really wants you to understand the staging in Raiders.

Fincherview.

Advertising's not dead. Don't you see, Sam? It can't die. Advertising doesn't exist. It never existed goddamnit.

RAINY DAY MOVIES





There's not just one thing.

Living and working in LA means lots of time spent in a car. Lots of time in a car means lots of time listening to podcasts and public radio. Well that's at least what it means for me. Sometimes there some really good shit that comes up on podcasts. This is one of those times when that happened to be the case.

I was listening to an episode of Marc Maron's WTF. The whole things. (Sometimes people skip the beginning because they're not all that interested in Marc's quips about his life. I enjoy them.) Anyway, it was a good thing I listened to the whole thing because part of the intro was Maron talking to Carol Leifer. She's a writer, stand up, author, actress, speaker, everythinger. You might know her work from a little show called Seinfeld. But I won't hold it against you if you don't know anything about her because I didn't either before this interview. And now I know a lot. And I'm completely fascinated with her and want to buy her new book. (And who said ads don't work?)

Back to the point, during the interview she was talking about the stage in her career where she was set to star the show she created. She was understandably nervous.But the story she told was about Jerry Seinfeld dropping by set and calming her down with a piece of advice. It's something I'm not sure I heard articulated in quite the way he did. (Another example of comedians knowing exactly how to boil universal truths down to the perfect statement.) 

He said to her: "There's not just one thing."

Meaning there's no one that that makes someone a someone. It's just another day on another job and you have to try your best. Of course things can pay off handsomely, but it's detrimental to go in expecting everything to be the thing that changes everything. 

There have been more than a few times that I felt as though everything was riding on the thing I was working on. I'll get so wrapped up in trying to make something brilliant and unique and transformative that I'll work myself into a lather and end up with diddly. I'll overwhelm myself with the intended result of the thing rather than the thing.

But of course it's not the case that every brief is the brief that's going to do it for you. There's potential everywhere, of course, but chances are that the half-off all board games radio brief isn't going to be the one that really sets the ad world on fire.

One particular example I remember is back when my Lunchables commercial went live. I thought that was going to launch me into super stardom. (It didn't.) But I was thrilled whenever I saw someone tweet about it, write about it, or make a parody of it. For a brief moment I felt like I'd made something that made it into the culture.

And that stuff is like a drug. Every assignement after that I approached like it was the only chance I had to do something big again. Like if it didn't pan out, it meaning relative renown and acclaim and people talking about my work, then the work was a failure. I was convinced everything was The One Thing.

But it wasn't. And it's not. And things are probably better off that way.

There will be weeks. And there will be links. But the two shall never meet.

TWO SHIPS PASSING IN THE NIGHT

MUTUALLY ASSURED OBLIVIOUSNESS


Rush Hour. (via @Awooooooga)


The NFL had a rough week.


Probably the worst bedside manner I've ever seen.


Smart man on toilets. Well, on stage but talking about toilets.

Everybody's working for the weekly linkly.

MANAGER'S OFFICE

  • Sell! Sell!'s excellent Let's Talk Advertising. It's about defining what's good about work that's universally regarded as good and how no one can agree on that. 

FACTORY FLOOR

SMOKING BREAK


Making the It's Always Sunny pilot.


iPhone 6 and 6+ unboxing. Really tremendous technology here, folks.



A master soba maker makes soba in silence.


A rapper that's a little too transparent.

Regular people with fancy titles doing regular jobs.

Everyone's always going on about personal branding. Saying, "You can't just be you. You gotta be a brand, man!" And what that's done is produce a bunch of nonsense titles that are fun to make fun of. Like Guru or Ninja or Podiatrist. But everyone knows that under those titles is just a regular person doing a regular job that isn't nearly as fancy as their job title.

George Carlin was writing about this ages ago (ages being at least 10 years ago when his book When Will Jesus Bring The Pork Chops came out). Because comedians are always ahead of the curve when talking about life's absurdities.

So here it is, "EUPHEMISMS: What do you do for a living?" from When Will Jesus Bring The Pork Chops?

American companies now put a great deal of effort into boosting their employee's self-esteem by handing out inflated job titles. Most likely, they think it also helps compensate for the longer hours, unpaid overtime and stagnant wages that have become standard. It doesn't.

However, such titles do allow an ordinary store clerk to tell some girl he's picking up at a bar that he's a product specialist. Or a retail consultant. If it turns out she's a store clerk, too, but he store uses different euphemisms, then she may be able to inform him that she's a sales counsellor. Or a customer service associate And, for a while there, they're under the impression that they actually have different jobs.

These are real job titles, currently in use to describe employees whose work essentially consists of telling customers, "We're all out of medium." Nothing wrong with that but it's called store clerk, not retail consultant, and not customer service associate. Apparently, stores feel they can charge more for merchandise sold by a customer service associate than they can for the same hunk sold by a clerk. By the way, if a clerk should be unhappy with his title, he can always more to a different store, where he may have a change if being called a product service representative, a sales representative or a sales associate.

And I hope you took note of that word associate. that's a hot word with companies now. I saw a fast-food employee mopping the floor at an In-N-Out Burger and---I swear this is true--his name tag said "associate." Okay? It's the truth. Apparently, instead of money they now give out these bogus titles.

At another fast-food place, Au Bon Pain, I noticed the cashier's name tag said hospitality representative. The cashier. The name tag was pinned to her uniform. The people who sell these uniforms now refer to them as career apparel. Or--even worse--team wear. I had to sit down when I heard that. Team wear.

Teams are also big in business; almost as big as associates. In Los Angeles's KooKooRoo restaurants the employee name tag say "team member." At a Whole Foods supermarket, I talked to the head of the meat department about ordering a special item; I figured he was the head butcher. But his name tag identified him as the meat team leader. Throw that on your resume. I guess the people under him would have been meat team associates. I didn't stick around to ask.

So it's all about employee morale. And in a lot of companies, as part of morale-building, the employees are called staff. But it's all right, because most customers are now called clients. With those designations, I guess the companies can pay the staff less and charge the clients more.

I'm Not sure when all this job-title inflation began, but it's been building for a while. At some point in the past thirty years secretaries became personal assistants or executive assistants. Many of them now consider those terms too common, so they call themselves *administrative aides.

Everyone wants to sound more important these days:

Teachers became educators
drummers became percussionists
movie directors became filmmakers,
company presidents became chief executive officers
family doctors became primary-care providers,
manicurists became nail technicians
magazine photographers became photojournalists
weightlifters became bodybuilders,
and bounty hunters now prefer to be called recovery agents.

And now everyone wants to be called a storyteller.