I’m now in Seattle for good

Ztoryteller is no longer just a blog moniker. It’s the name of my new corporation, a Washington-based LLC that will focus on telling stories for companies, colleges, humanitarian agencies … and anyone who has a story to tell and seeks help in refining the message and finding its audience.

For those of you who want to follow my personal reflections and the journey I took to get here, see my personal blog, now renamed New 2 Seattle sleuth, at ztoryteller.posterous.com

My business address is:

1100 Dexter Avenue North
Suite 100
Seattle, WA 98109

206-273-7744

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Rory Sutherland: Life lessons from an ad man

You’ve got to take a few minutes to watch this TED talk by Rory Sutherland. It is relevant to advertising creatives like me, but it cuts a much wider swath and provides humorous commentary on our culture, our values, and our thirst for an escape from materialism. Terrific examples of the difference between perceived and intrinsic value. The advertising campaign (complete with focus groups) for “Diamond Shreddies” is a classic. Enjoy!

What I see when I turn away from my task

Here’s the panorama from left to right…

Sent from my iPhone

Little guys filling a big dumpster

Adi and Dani were learning how to help today. And it was kinda fun!

Download now or watch on posterous

IMG_1155.MOV (1189 KB)

Sent from my iPhone

Round-filing the remains of my days

Finally, disposing of the detritus of my first 10 years of business has become a priority. Hundreds of trays, 10s of thousands of 35mm photographs… Each photo part of an existential thought process on behalf of clients; each tray, the product of uncounted hours of animation camera work and multiple projector programming; each 1-inch video master the result of thousands of dollars of intensive “online suite” time. When i was doing that stuff i won 27 local addy awards and a handful of national honors. Hot stuff, distant memory, who cares? Not even me. But when I say it feels good to get rid of it and clean out our basement, I’m not saying it was a waste. It supported my family, taught me life lessons, brought employees and clients into my life that are still friends. Some of those jobs were answers to prayer. Others were trials of faith or tests of endurance, or stumbling blocks that exposed character flaws. In all work there is honor. Now as we chuckle at the “old technology”, hopefully it’ll give us perspective on the current hot technologies. In five years or one year, they’ll seem like primitive fads, too.

Sent from my iPhone

VW Volcano taps volcanic resentment among creatives

Here’s a new spot on YouTube… thanks to the Creative Intensive Network on LinkedIn, for sharing it, and Alexander Bickov for posting it on YouTube.

I really love the storytelling that director Marcello Serpa of AlmapBBDO Brazil accomplished in only a minute seventeen seconds… but judging from the comments on LinkedIn, I’m in the minority. Most of the comments were critical of its relevance, amount of brand recognition, etc. “Creative for creative’s sake”, “Epic waste of a client’s money”, and an entertaining rant with no doubt an interesting backstory about sleek conference rooms and busty interns offering beverages in a big agency. Maybe they’re right. But I don’t think so.

This spot has everything an urbanite worried about the future could want: a smoking volcano threatening an idyllic way of life; a creative solution delivered in heroic fashion by young progressives, working together. Getting their hands and cars dirty in the process, and blessing the soccer players, the old, the young, the chickens, and the goats. A beginning, middle, and end all in just over a minute. Classic dramatic storytelling in the service of car advertising!

Here’s the spot.

Here’s what I said on LinkedIn:

I like it a lot. Well directed: good casting (the old man, the boy), amazing job of making a character statement about the people bringing the popcorn in just a few frames (attractive girl getting out of the car, cool-looking but not Abercrombie-esque shovelers.) Excellent editing… watch it 5 times and you can see how nicely the details support the message. Environmental/urban reinvention statement (Smoking volcano repurposed for human health — with cool factor like chickens & sheep) Great special effects that don’t detract from the story. Well-conceived branding elements as the line of identical cars come toward us (if you watch on YouTube at HQ).

Disagree with the linkage to the Beetle. This spot was clearly conceived to support some branding research somewhere that said “small, green, community, versatile, practical … and yet racy, daring, sporty, and fast.”

Come on, folks, lighten up. What do big horses have to do with Budweiser? Is there a meaningful difference between Huggies and Pampers? The whole thing is just another devilishly clever charade purporting to solve the challenges of life with a product that, in reality, is no better than any other vehicle in solving them. It’s art, and it’s artifice, and if we’re in advertising that’s what clients pay us for.

What thinketh thou?

I miss you, Dave

Today is a good day to remember my best friend from junior high and high school, Dave Gregorek. He died 40 years ago in May, and today is the 40th anniversary of the last model rocketry contest he competed in, NARAM 11. After he died his dad gathered up his rockets, put the finishing touches on a few that he had not quite completed, and headed off to Colorado. There he entered Dave’s rockets posthumously. 

Dave was strong in many of the competition categories… he did well with payloads, often winning egg loft and “space guppy” contests. He was a terrific craftsman, and so did really well in the scale model competitions. But his best event, year in and year out, was parachute duration, which occurred today near Johnstown Pennsylvania… in a farm field just a few miles from where Flight 93 went down. 

The trick with parachute duration is to build a rocket that is very light, that will go very high, but will remain directly above the launch area until the chute deploys so that it can be tracked reliably. The parachute must open fully, be highly visible … and to avoid disqualification the entire rocket including parachute, body, and nose cone must be recovered. The time from launch to touchdown is measured, and the longest time wins.

I’ve thought about the Naram 11 event often, because in my mind’s eye it represents the last scene of a movie screenplay I hope to write about Dave some day. Forty years ago, Dr. Gregorek, Pat Daulton, and George Pantalos were there, hoping that Dave’s last effort would set a new world record in parachute duration. Three attempts are allowed in the event, and on their final attempt, my friends watched exultantly as Dave’s silk-bodied rocket rose straight and true … and the chute deployed perfectly. They followed it with binocs, and set off on foot, trying to keep up as they crossed fields and roads beneath the floating rocket. Pat was a cross country runner, and George played tennis, so they were both in excellent shape to keep up. Unfortunately, on this particular day a thermal caught the chute, and they watched helplessly as the wind took Dave’s bird higher and higher. Dr. G told me the three of them finally just stopped and saluted, as Dave’s rocket kept rising, and disappeared into a cloud.

Today at Naram 51, no doubt a new generation of model rocket builders are trying to learn the same skills Dave mastered before his untimely death. I hope some of them, or their fathers, take a moment to remember my best friend, and all that he contributed to those of us who knew him.

I’m still standing there, looking at the sky, and saluting you, Dave. I miss you.