Alex Bogusky, I think I love you.

July 1, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

(I wrote this after seeing Alex speak last year, but was told by smart people at my agency not to post it – “too weird.”  On the news that Alex’s doing something new, I wanted to thank him, encourage him and hopefully not scare him.)

Alex Bogusky, I love you.

Here’s why:

Your delusional positivity philosophy.

Your constant poking at everything, including your agency, your clients, the industry, the work, the media, the culture, your hair.

Your biceps.

Your comfortableness with yourself.

Your response to my email. When I wrote, “Thanks, you did some good for our agency group,” you replied: “Love it. Have a great three days.”

Now let me parse this dense, complicated poetry.

First: “Love it.” Love: Pure joy, exuberance, connection. “It” is more subtle, rich and could refer to the time you spent with the group because we were good listeners, intelligent and appreciative. “It” could be the love for what you are doing now, or more generally, a love of life!

Following this grand emotional expression your words snap into reality, connectivity: “Have a great 3 days” – the 3 days! You tuned into my immediate situation, this specific reference to the time I was scheduled to be in Aspen. You could have jotted off a generic “thanks, enjoyed it” but you connected with my life. And right there – the combination of the emotional with the pointed, every day made a deeper, personal connection.

Alex, you are a great communicator: All with 7 words. Elegant, mystical.

I love that about you.

And also how you live in the moment so you bring those around you in it. And we’re all there in it, vivid and electric with possibilities.

As the industry trades write our obituaries you innocently, knowingly, amusedly ride your bike by the graveyard, wondering why the gloom when there’s so much fun stuff to do.

So it seems, I really don’t know you.

I just love you.


When Advertising Stings

April 15, 2010

By Michelle Edelman, President @ NYCA

Whether you TiVo them or skip over them, ads are an important part of our cultural experience.

I don’t know about you, but I still find it creepy when brands bring back people from the dead, cure disease, or otherwise mess with life and death. I didn’t like it when Christopher Reeve stood up and walked. Because he never would again, and it seemed somehow disrespectful to use his condition for commercial purposes. Most famously and most recently, we heard Tiger Woods’ deceased dad questioning his son’s morals. Will the much-debated TV spot sell shoes? We don’t know. But probably Nike is on your mind now. You are noticing that swoosh on people’s feet and heads more than you used to. It’s not that there is suddenly more Nike out there, it’s that Nike is more present for you. That’s what advertising can do, at its best. Because when it’s time to go shopping, the swoosh will jump out at you then, too.

But still, it feels like a dirty trick. And that’s where advertising stings. A sting has both pleasure and pain associated with it. Or so we said in our advertising campaign for the good/bad nightclub, Stingaree. There is a certain truth in it – our brains can mix up good and bad feelings and there is intensity in this.

I didn’t mean to write this post about Tiger Woods. Actually I wanted to address this piece of copy. It stopped me because I thought – wow that woman looks uncannily like Gilda Radner! Whom I loved and miss. On further inspection, I found that the ad was using her image to sell fake wood flooring. Point taken. Looks real. But would Gilda want to be brought back to life to shill laminate? Do we want her to? The ad represents her beautifully and yet – misrepresents her wholly. I am left feeling that Armstrong is inauthentic and not simply fake.

Sometimes advertising points out its own lines to be crossed and that in itself, is part of our cultural learning.


Asking for compassion on Super Bowl Sunday

February 8, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @NYCA

It wasn’t on the field but during and after the Bowl that we got a sense of what’s on people’s minds. I see the commercials and programming around this event as a mass emotional snapshot. There are the key economic indicators – this is the culture version. And I’m seeing the big companies asking for some love. With the bailouts and the great lack of trust for corporations these days, I can see the reasoning.

We saw a sweet and tender Google commercial – reminiscent of Hallmark without the puppies and freckles; in fact, without anything living at all. Now, the world knows Google as the largest — perhaps most innovative — search company but this was not about what they do. This told a love story – we saw Google’s heart in a series of search boxes. Why? So we’ll feel better about them as their product weakens to competition or they start charging us per search. It’s easy to feel for the underdog but these guys got in a soft spot for the behemoth.

After the Saints won the big game, we were presented with “Undercover Boss.” A new reality show where the heads of large corporations take on the jobs of their personnel. In this episode, the president of Waste Management, a company with 45,000 employees, tried and often failed at tasks he had caused to be unreasonable through his own policy making.

Tears were shed around garbage trucks and porta-potties as he got a fresh look at his company and, so, himself. He made corporate changes for the common guy. Good TV. Good PR. Good business.

At the same time, I found out a stat that is the real reality show: Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest domestic violence day of the year.

Compassion needs to happen on both sides of the screen.


Tiger Woods is just the world’s best golfer.

December 14, 2009

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO  @NYCA

I am not pissed at Tiger.

I didn’t invest hundreds of millions in him like TAG Heuer, Nike, Accenture, Gatorade and Gillette.

I didn’t even buy his clubs or red shirts.

I did buy into his supernatural, god-like ability to play the game I am completely dedicated to. And he has not let me down. He’s an athlete, I’m a fan. We have our roles. He hits amazing shots, I cheer. Deal.

Some say he let down golf.  He didn’t. Contrary to what his late father proclaimed, Tiger is not bigger than the game. I suppose this is proof. Golf doesn’t cheat.

I don’t think he screwed golfers either – well, only if those girls played golf.

So why is everyone so upset?

Because with Tiger – unlike Jordan and Kobe and all the other athletes who’ve done the same thing – it’s different. Was from the start.

His first Nike commercial when Tiger joined the brand set it all up. It said, in the first person, “Hello world, there are still courses I can not play because of the color of my skin.”

He made it about more than athletic prowess. Tiger was standing up not as a golfer but as a representative of his race. He wanted fairness, equality, outside the game. Fair enough.

There was the even more famous ad that followed, showing kids of all nationalities on the course, repeating the phrase: “I am Tiger Woods.”

This was more than an equipment ad because Tiger was more than just a golfer. Golfers didn’t just want to play with what he played, or play like him (remember Michael Jordan’s “I want to be like Mike” campaign from the same advertiser). They wanted to be him.

But now we see who he is, the personal side of him, and we are repulsed because we thought we knew him so well through millions of stories, videos, interviews read, shared, and commented on, that we wanted to be him. To the kids, he was them. Maybe he was the best of all of us. So when he sunk low, he brought us with him.

We can’t trust our politicians. They lie.

Or our corporations. They cheat us out of our 401K.

Or our banks. They sell us loans we can’t repay.

Or our clergy. They touch boys.

And now we can’t trust Tiger Woods.

So who can we turn to?

Ourselves. Oh boy, we can’t adopt another’s morality, character, integrity? We can’t be what we thought Tiger Woods was? Nope. Get up and look yourself in the soul and ask, “Are you Tiger Woods? Or are you more? Are you you?” It’s okay, you can say yes, you won’t be cheating on him. Tiger’s transgression changed his relationship with the world: his advertisers, his kids, his wife, and us. And, in part, that’s a good thing because it teaches us to be our own heroes.

It’s fine to want to bomb 360 yard drives with a Major on the line. It’s fair to covet his golf abilities. And it’s also good to know who you are admiring and why. You owe that to yourself.  Tiger Woods has been someone very special to millions around the world. He’s done some wonderful things outside golf – his foundation that helps so many children is one. And, yes, he has been caught cheating on his family. Some will one day forgive him.  I think that’s a good thing.

The truth is, even if we do forgive him, he’s not Tiger Woods any more. He’s just the world’s best golfer.