Run Toward the Fire

Yesterday, around 1:30pm, in the theatre of the Creative Circus, something brilliant happened. Something that simultaneously reinforced everything I want to believe about the industry I so dearly love, and opened my eyes to a new way of thinking about advertising and creativity in general. Yesterday, in a room of students hanging on his every word and teachers trying to pretend they weren't starstruck, a giant walked among us. Yesterday, Jeff Goodby* spoke. And I peed a little. If you don't know who Jeff Goodby is, let me quickly refresh your memory: Got Milk. Great, now we're all caught up. (Obviously we're not all caught up. He's done, is still doing and will continue to do incredible work, much of which can't even be categorized. He is not just an advertising god, he's a creative institution. But I needed to keep this post under 1,000 words.)

The first slide Goodby put up had all of us on the edge of our seats. It said, "How Vandalism Will Save Advertising." You may have seen or heard about it through various advertising outlets, apparently it's a presentation he's been working on for a bit and given great thought to, and it shows. The premise is simple: to save advertising, if indeed it is something to be saved, we need to run toward the fire.

We need to shake things up, be crazy. To unleash something on the world that it doesn't expect. Do what they're telling you not to. Be a vandal with a purpose. A rebel with a cause. We need to embrace our social responsibility. We need to make it bigger. Make it better. Make a statement. Make a change. Check out the work GS&P is doing now and you'll see exactly what I mean.

This is not a new idea, per se. It's not groundbreaking or earth shattering or mind blowing. In fact, it's the reason I got into this business in the first place: to effect social change. But lately, I've been feeling creatively suffocated. I've been told my work is "too cause based" my feminist voice is "too angry," and if I could just tone it down it would be a lot easier for me to get a job. So imagine my delight when not only is one of my idols speaking not 10 feet from my face, but he's telling me that what I believe in, the way I work, my desperate desire to inject social justice into every little thing I do, is not only good, it's necessary.

"Take a brand and figure out how to make them do good."

It's the simplicity of this idea that speaks to me so much. It's not about only writing for non-profits or brands with a social message, it's about changing the perception of a brand, it's about taking brands with no message, with no agenda, and giving them one. Make them matter. Make them stand for something. Because vandalism without a purpose is just destruction.

Of course this is only a sliver of his presentation. The sliver that resonated most with this little rabble-rouser. There were so many other perfect pearls of wisdom I couldn't begin to write about all of them, but I'm going to try. For you. You're welcome.

Jeff Goodby's pearly wisdom nuggets

  • This is lucky. You are lucky to be in this industry and to be creating silly and sometimes powerful stuff all day.
  • Use your own life, don't try to be something different. And if you want to be something different, change your life.
  • Amateurism is the purest form of creation because it is done out of love.
  • Study jokes
  • Write things down
  • Be in a constant state of readiness.

What a guy, man. What. A. Guy. I couldn't be more pleased to have shaken his hand. My sincerest thanks.

Peace, Love & Goodby

America, I love you, but you're bringing me down.

 This felt bigger than a Facebook post. Bigger than Instagram or snapchat. Bigger than I can even begin to wrap my head around, but I'll try.
Last night the mildly unsavory political actions of an outstanding woman were deemed worse for the country than the twisted, bigoted moral fibers of a man. Trump's entire personality was decided to be a more acceptable flaw than Clinton's exaggerated political corruption.
This wasn't politics. This was something much, much bigger.
This was an exercise in brutal compartmentalization for a lot of Americans. Both parties had large majorities that voted for their candidate despite their own unfavorable opinions of said candidate. Both sides had voters who had to overlook glaring flaws to do what they believed, in their heart of hearts, was right. Not everyone was running to the poles with bells on to cast their votes like I was (and I'd do it again in a heartbeat).
Although our country has elected, in my opinion, a racist, sexist, manipulative, psychopathic billionaire, if we can, as individual citizens in our teeny tiny seemingly insignificant daily lives, no matter who you voted for, treat each other with kindness, empathy and respect, call out injustice with fierce vigor, stand firm and unwavering in the face of oppression -- hate will never win.
I wish that didn't sound so idealistic right now. I wish it didn't feel like I was lying to myself and to all the Black, Muslim, Mexican, LGBTQ, Female, Jewish (unfortunately etc.) people I love and respect. But it's the only thing I can believe in right now. To me, right now in this moment, America is not the sum of it's parts. It is a broken machine in need of repair. There are parts that must be replaced, yes, but there are also parts that just need a little grease, a little tightening of the screw, a little adjustment. Though those tasks feel anything but little right now.
I write this because it is all I can do right now. I write this because I cannot let this go. I write this because I will not be silenced even though the majority of white America just told me they don't want to hear what I have to say. I write because that is how I will make change. It is my teeny tiny seemingly insignificant contribution, in the plea to please, please, please not let this country fall apart.
"It is all a dismal picture. Late last night, as the results were coming in from the last states, a friend called me full of sadness, full of anxiety about conflict, about war. Why not leave the country? But despair is no answer. To combat authoritarianism, to call out lies, to struggle honorably and fiercely in the name of American ideals—that is what is left to do. That is all there is to do." - David Remnick; An American Tragedy
*Note: yes, this particular post may be about politics when the rest of my blog deals mostly with the creative side of advertising, so I am aware that this may not have been the best platform to express these sentiments. However, if you think for one second the political climate doesn't affect the advertising industry, or if Trump's potential (still holding out a sliver of hope her) presidency won't affect women in the industry on a large scale and perpetuate the boys club mentality that is unfortunately still alive and well among Admen, you are sorely mistaken.

When a compliment isn't

Each time one woman starts a compliment to another woman with the phrase, "I wish I were more like you," a tiny feminist fairy dies, tangled among the weeds of self-deprecation in the ever-growing forest of patriarchy. OH, YEAH.

This is that kind of blog post.

For real though. Ladies, hear me out. I'm sure at one point or another we have noticed an attribute of a fellow femme and uttered the words: "I wish I were more like you and [insert perceived compliment here]."

In most cases, the "I wish I were more like you" compliment (IWIWMLYC) is a backhanded way to point out a negative quality in someone while simultaneously pointing out a positive quality in yourself.

"I wish I were more like you and could just say whatever I wanted, no filter. But I care too much about what other people think."

Translation: "you're really loud and a lot of people find you annoying. I'm not like that." Not cool. Negative feminist points. Plus, if you're gonna attack someone, grow some ovaries and do it directly.

On the other hand, sometimes the IWIWMLYC is actually meant as a compliment.

Yes. Believe it or not, there have been several recorded instances of women genuinely complimenting one another. Usually this is done in private so as not to appear weak in front of the pack. It is a rare and cherished moment in the female jungle.

"I wish I were more like you, you're so skinny! I could never pull off a crop top."

In that instance, it's not that the complimenter is out of line, it's that she is putting herself down to make someone else feel good. Not only does that make it hard for the complimented to receive said compliment (what do you say to that? Fish much?), but it washes out the intended gesture in a sea of self-loathing.

So it's like this. The IWIWMLYC is either a non-so-subtle jab, or a self-shaming friend booster. Both instances show a lack of confidence and ownership.

So stop it.

If you want to tell a woman she looks great in that dress, or you're impressed by how fast she ate that cheeseburger, or how she understands the nuances of Anna Karenina better than anyone else you know, just freakin tell her. It's really not that complicated. She's not going to think you're hitting on her, don't worry.

Likewise, if you're proud of certain qualities you've got, own it. So you're a quiet woman who only speaks when she has something to say. That's great. That's you. Don't put down the loud girl in the middle of the room. She knows she's loud. She's 28. She gets it, okay. Okay?

Peace, Love & Stop the IWIWMLYC

 

 

Too Creative to be Normal.

All good creatives are outcasts. Rejects. Nerds, losers, punks, nobodies. And I say that with love. We are insecure, lonely, emotional, aloof, loud, silent, sensitive, possessive, passionate, demented, needy, anxious, and self deprecating. But it could be worse. We could be normal. We could work every day 9-5 in a beige office with cream desks inside sterile cubicles. We could be in stable, routine based relationships. We could support the local sports team and have lots to say about the recent weather patterns. We could drink lite beer, because what's the difference, and sit in the same chair every night to watch the same late night talk show. We could ruffle zero feathers, talk to our mothers calmly and peacefully every day,  we could be happy. We could be content. We could be complacent. We could be numb.

Instead, we are unpredictable. We are up and down and up again before we even get out of bed. We are at once motivated and debilitated by praise or rejection. We are simultaneously wide open and completely closed off. We seek out the new and exciting and different. We are never satisfied. We push and we pull and we take and we give and nothing is ever balanced the way we want it to be.

And it's exhilarating. After all, that is what we are collecting, yes? The little moments that make everything worth it? The tiny pieces of life that you can fold away and use later? Add more fuel to that brain fire. It's what keeps us moving. That search for the next big thing. The next great campaign idea, painting concept, lighting composition, lyric, melody, movement, theory, plot line. We must roll on before we rock.

Roll through that pain, suffering, heartache, loneliness, all that bummer shit, that's what makes art. Without it, shakespeare couldn't have written much of anything. Picasso wouldn't have painted anything during his blue period. And Alanis Morisette, well we all know her songs are garbage now that she's "happy" or whatever.

We may not belong anywhere, we may not fit in, we may never be normal. But who wants to be normal? Normality is boring. We're too smart to be normal.

Stay weird, my friends.