Friday, February 16, 2018

Uncle Slappy's increasingly regular Slap of the Week.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

No one reads anymore.

If you make your living, as I do, with the first knuckle of your fingers down to your very tips, you’re probably as tired as I am of hearing the platitude that no one reads copy anymore.

I stumbled upon a quote yesterday attributed to Bill Bernbach. I can’t seem to find the actual words, but I got the gist.

A client said to him about an ad, “Why’d you write all that copy, no one reads copy anymore.”

Bernbach said, “10% of people do. That’s who I’m writing for. The 10% of people who read.”

I don’t for a second thing my copy, good as it is, is going to reach non-readers. But as Mr. Bernbach said, some people will read it. And they will read it because they are interested in the subject of the ad. My job is to inform and persuade people—the people who read.

You can say, no one reads anymore.

But that is unproven. 

My guess is that the percentage of people who read ads probably hasn’t changed that much since advertising was invented—back in Sumerian times or before. I’d bet Bernbach’s estimation of 10% of people who are stopped by the ad will read it is just about right. That number will probably read the ad whether it has 50 words, or 250. Planners reading this—do you have any data that shows people are reading less than they did 10 years ago, or even 5?

Of course, people skip all sorts of ads.

A successful banner ad earns 6 clicks per 10,000 views. Have you chosen to dispense with digital media?

What’s more, if I haul out my dog-eared copy of “Ogilvy on Advertising,” I’d probably assert that readership will likely go up, not down, as copy length increases. Visually it appears you have something to say. And if you’re blessed, as I am, to work with great art directors, designers and typographers, an ad—even an ad with ‘a lot of copy’ might even be inviting.

The word no one, as in no one reads anymore, really distresses me. The tribal state of the world suggests to me that if you wanted to form a club of left-handed fish scalers who play badminton every other Tuesday, you could probably gain thousands of members. In fact, some years ago, I started a fictional Facebook group called “the Foreskin Liberation Authority.” I get membership requests still.

In other words, there is no no one anymore.

More esoteric coteries of people are catered to than readers. We target ads to all sorts of groups--many of them obscure. So why not regard readers as a target? And treat that target with respect.


I don't believe in ghosts like you see in old black and white movies. I have no truck with the howling guy in the sheet, or the translucent 12-year-old girl in a frilly dress who plays a piano in the attic at midnight. And Marley's ghost, or Banquo's, dragging the chains of past sins for all time, well, they mean nothing to me.

That said, my sister's ghost visits me from time-to-time. I'm thinking about my sister, Nancy, as I do, because today is her birthday. She would have been 58 today.

Instead, she died in a motorcycle crash on Mother's Day in 2007--right outside my office, on 12th Avenue and 52nd Street. A drunk ran across the road against the light. She swerved to avoid him and, in swerving, her bike flipped and crushed her to death. The cops who came to my apartment said she died almost instantaneously and didn't suffer.

Nancy's ghost comes to visit, probably once a month. After a childhood of being raised by Joan Crawford's meaner, crazier sister, I've built a pretty decent life for myself. Most of that is due to having chosen a wife of unsurpassed niceness and patience. Some is due to the 40 years of psychotherapy I have put myself through. Some, a little, is due to my own perseverance and will.

Nancy visits me when I'm sitting by a pool in Costa Rica. Or walking on the beach and throwing a duck decoy for Whiskey, my golden retriever. Nancy visits me when I'm down at Katz's and having my twice-annual pastrami sandwich on rye.

She usually takes my hand from my pocket or from my side and gives it a squeeze, and then says something like what you'd expect, 'George, I love you.' 'I love you, too, Nan. I wish you were here. I wish you could be with me.' 

She looks at me then with her deep-set and doleful eyes, and says, 'I am here with you.'

Then like a fist when you open up your hand, she's off again. Playing her amazing guitar licks in her band up in heaven, or riding her Ducati on some twisting road in Italy.

Happy birthday, Nancy.

Come visit me soon.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Yiddish autocorrect.

Some years ago while using my vaunted iPhone, I texted "Oy" to someone. The geniuses of Cupertino autocorrected that oy to "it's." Like they never heard Yiddish before, the Lingua Franca of the civilized world. Below, some modest suggestions.


I’m running a little late. Be there in five.

Once again I’m running late because I have no respect for your time. I’ll be there in five minutes if I don’t get hit by a bus.
I had to leave. Coming down with a cold.

I’ll probably be fired for leaving early. But who cares considering there’s a good chance it’s not just a cold, it’s polio.

Lots of Lox.
I’m coming down with a cold.

I have tuberculosis.
Call me later.

Call me later if I’m not dead yet.
Flight is delayed. Be home around 10.

Call me later if I’m not dead yet.

Bring Rebecca Brisket.


Monday, February 12, 2018

The glory days are here again.

About six months ago I was down on 15th Street at Sonic Union, recording and mixing some commercials. The quality of the recording people hardly matters to me. I choose where to work based on their lunch and snack offerings.

Sonic Union, as you may or may not know, is famous for their snack wall. An entire edifice given over to Ju-Ju-Bees, Chex Mix, shelled walnuts, gummy bears, and of course, M&Ms in both the plain and peanut variety. 

It should be noted that those who have more experience with the snack wall choose to use the peanut M&Ms as a chock behind a tire to keep a car or truck from rolling backwards, or with enough of them, to build a temporary highway barrier if no concrete is in the offing.

Image result for chock definition
I wasn't aware of this, and made the foolish mistake of eating one--a blue peanut M&M if I remember correctly. 


With one mastication, I lost the lion's share of a molar that had been serving me well, until that point, for some 50 years.

I quickly went uptown to my dentist, who poked and prodded and after a few weeks build a crown. In all, the work cost me $3,000.

Minutes ago Maurice the mailroom guy, a fine man and upstanding citizen, struggled with a box the size of two shoeboxes. It was filled to the brim with M&Ms.

Stop by if you want some.

Especially if you're prepared to lose a tooth or two.

Bird brains.

No matter where you live in New York, whether it's the most rarefied gold-plated neighborhood, or the most threadbare and meager, there's always an old lady--she gets up before everyone else--who scatters bird seed on the sidewalk for hordes of pigeons to peck at.

It hardly matters that most true New Yorkers regard pigeons as flying rats, that if pigeons lived on discarded pizza crusts alone they could be as calorically-rich as Croesus. It hardly matters that the seed is spread in front of doorways, or in crosswalks, or in bus stops, so literally 40 or 60 birds have to be shooed away just to go on with your daily routine, hopefully without getting shit on. None of that matters, no matter where you live, this old lady is up with the milkman making life good for the pigeons and horrible for everyone else.

Hordes of pigeons are a fact of New York life and yet another petty annoyance that sometimes leads someone over the edge to gun-wielding madness and they wind up shooting nine at a local basketball pick-up game.

The old men who sit on the wooden benches that gird the concrete islands on the upper west side's stretch of Broadway can often be caught feeding the birds as well. They have in their oily brown sacks three day-old kaiser rolls that they bought for a dollar at a dirty linoleum bakery. One they gobble surreptitiously, like a kid sneaking yet another candy bar at Halloween. One is for a snack later on, around four, when they warm up the 21-inch Quasar television to watch the nightly news. And the last they tear small clumps from and toss to the hungry birds.

There's an old New York ditty that goes like this:

"If I had the wings of a sparrow,
If I had the ass of a crow,
I'd fly over your house tomorrow,
And shit on your mother below."

I know Yahweh, and the Buddha, and Allah, and Jesus Christ himself say we must love all creatures great and small.

But I'm about two commutes away from buying an army surplus flamethrower and cooking the fucking things.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Notes from the Van Wyck.

I landed in JFK about 15 minutes ago. Through the digital good-graces of the Global Entry system, I scanned my passport, matched my fingerprints, had my photograph taken, and bellied up to a customs' agent and in short order I'm now in the backseat of a Nissan NV2000 moving about three miles per on the Van Wyck.

The Van Wyck was built by Robert Moses back during his Power Broker heyday. And it was obsolete the moment the concrete was dry.

The road can handle only so-many cars an hour, and from day one, the traffic outstripped the highway's capacity. In fact, rarer than Sasquatch or Yeti or the Loch Ness Monster would be the sighting of a person who's driven the Van Wyck without traffic. It's been said, if you must know, that the very words Van Wyck are old New York Dutch for traffic jam.

Moses had his way. From the backseat of his air-conditioned Packard limousine, he disdained mass-transit--refusing to accommodate rail-lines down the center of the roads he constructed. Something that could have been done for a nominal cost 70 years ago, would, with rail-construction in New York costing upwards of $2 billion per mile, bankrupt us today.

Moses did some good during his 50 years of building New York. Some beautiful bridges were conceived and built by him: the Throgg's Neck and the Bronx-Whitestone to name just two. But he was a virulent racist and built roads that were as evil in their intent as racism itself. And he ruined whole neighborhoods with his roads, most famously the East Tremont section of the Bronx which was eviscerated by the ugliest highway in all the world, the Cross Bronx ha ha Expressway.

Meanwhile I sit here, creeping, in the early winter morning New York sunshine. Happy to be back home.

But cursing Robert Moses at three mph.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

How to age.

I'm far away from home right now, shooting with a major director and working closely with an amazing team of clients, crew and my agency colleagues. There's pressure, of course, and fear, and frustration, and just plain-old I-wanna-go-homeness, but also an overriding sense of how lucky I am. 

I am 60.

Doing what I love.

With people I love, as well.

Last night, I was sitting next to my producer, a talented, intelligent and funny woman and we were talking about a creative we both knew from our long pasts who had recently, and cataclysmically, self-destructed.

I said something like, "I should write a post on lasting to 60."

She looked at me solemnly with her doe-eyes, and said, "Yes, you should."

So, I started this morning. I decided I would re-write Kipling's "If," for our modern era. Then I re-read it and realized I could do nothing to improve it, save "ungenderizing" it, which would ruin the rhyme scheme. 

I left it alone. Excuse the "my son," bit. You get the idea.

IF  by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!