Sep 28

Cool, creative ways to quit

Job quitterI must admit that, while I've resigned from a few jobs over my career, I never applied my creative juices to the task. That certainly wasn't the case with these five advertising agency refugees: 5 Amusing Ad Agency Resignations.

I think the fifth, and final, resignation is the most original. It's also the oldest, having occurred in 1918. In case you don't have the time to read it, I'll sum it up. An ad man quit, joined a newspaper and then sent a letter to his employer, written in the third person and suggesting that, he, the author, be terminated. Brilliant.

The coolest, most creative resignation I ever witnessed occurred at the late, not-so-great Earle Palmer Brown. For reasons known only to him, the CEO had hired a business development director who had been a huge star at a prior agency. But, his snarky, condescending and abrasive behavior immediately alienated him from one and all in our New York office.

The biz dev demon lasted about a month. One day, he was summoned to the agency's headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, and summarily fired. But, and this is the beautiful part, he decided not to fly back to New York on the shuttle. Instead, he called the agency's limousine service, order a stretch fully loaded with alcohol and had himself driven back to the Big Apple in style. The final bill easily topped $1,000, and the tale became the talk of the town.

So, how about you? Any classic or creative quitting stories you care to share? I'd go on, but I'm trying to develop a witty way in which to inform myself that I've had it with Peppercom.

Sep 27

Walmart’s Siren Song

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Ann Barlow.

Slide1Last week, Walmart nearly lured me in. First, Bill Clinton talked with Jon Stewart about the colossus’ (I must have Greek mythology on my mind) use of solar panels on its stores. It's now the biggest user of solar panels among commercial entities in the country. Wow, I thought. Enlightened self-interest to be sure. But such a giant operation's use of solar could have a real and lasting impact on the country's use of better energy alternatives. And likely serve as a model for others in the process.  Maybe I should be less hasty in my judgment of Walmart as a poor excuse for a corporate citizen.

Then, the new Walmart grocery store opened in town. As you might expect, a lot of residents were alarmed at its arrival and unhappy that it made its usual back-door entrance. We already have a Whole Foods, Safeway, Nob Hill and a couple of Lucky grocery stores.  Did we really need another one, especially this one?  But arrive it did, and only five minutes from my house, in a small, quiet strip mall. 

So yesterday, when I realized we were running low on orange juice, I figured I would run over and check out the new store.  My husband, Bob, was curious, too, so he joined me.  We were greeted by wide aisles, pleasant lighting and spotless displays (but no actual greeters – maybe that’s only for the regular stores).  We soon noticed that some of our regular staples were much less expensive – natural cereal for $3.  A gallon of organic milk for $5.  Hmmm.  Fresh, trustworthy foods at lower prices.  Could it be that once again we had misjudged Walmart?

Then we ran into someone we know who decided she needed to get out of the house for a few hours each week and so took a job at the new store.  We asked how it was going, and initially she raved about the quality and prices of the merchandise.  Then, her smile faltered and she admitted that the store’s move from being open for 18 hours to 24 took her and her fellow employees by surprise.  They had already accepted the fact that they wouldn’t be scheduled for more than 25 hours to avoid eligibility for health care under the current law.  But when she and others signed on, they were told they would be working a daytime shift almost exclusively, and never later than 11.  She showed us the schedule that she had just received, which included a shift for the next day that would run until 1:30 a.m.  She was sad that she was being asked to work so late and nervous considering that her husband was out of town and her two children would be alone.  She initially felt a little better that at least her pay would be higher during overnight hours, but then she learned that this increase only applied if the employee starts work at 10 pm or later.  Guess how many employees do that?  Our friend walked away, uncertain whether she could sustain such a schedule.  Too bad; she would be a good employee.

Bob and I walked out of the store with our spirits dampened.  Later, I read up a bit more on the organic groceries we had purchased.  Although the grocery giant has made real efforts to buy local produce, it also gets a great deal of its food from industrial farms.  And, its insistence on being open 24 hours, often on the outskirts of town, means more energy consumption both for the stores and those who need to drive there.

Ah, Walmart.  You nearly ensnared me.  You do offer some decent quality merchandise at low prices. You are working to reduce its energy and water consumption.  But this isn’t the triple bottom line at work.  This is Walmart looking to be as profitable as it can be.  And if towns and small businesses and employees get in the way of that, so be it.

I consider this experience to be my Circe’s warning, and like Odysseus, I’ll heed it — minus the beeswax in the ears and being tied to the mast, perhaps.  Be careful, fellow consumers.  Like the siren’s song of Greek mythology, Walmart’s prices, down-home ambiance and corporate citizenry efforts are very alluring.  And ultimately, very deadly.

Sep 26

Caveat Calories

A segment on 'CBS This Morning' just reported a significant Red State backlash on the part of high school kids who say The White House's new school lunch program doesn't provide them with enough calories.

Indeed, enterprising students are posting YouTube videos (which, hopefully, won't upset anyone in the Middle East). The videos depict angry, 'starving' kids brown-bagging gross, cheese-laden lunches and munchies to school.

 

In one video, an entire high school basketball team feigns passing out as a result of having consumed too few calories from their Michelle Obama-approved school diet. Another shows one emaciated teen being shoved into an ambulance and whisked off to a nearby hospital. Nice.

These videos are truly sad, yet underscore the level of ignorance that is so pervasive in our country today. Kids, and their parents, resent being told to eat a healthy diet, so they purposely rebel and shovel calorie-rich, lard laden crap into their young bodies (thereby setting the wheels in motion for a lifelong battle with obesity and its deadly cousins, diabetes, heart attack and stroke).

I'm amazed, and appalled, at the small government, libertarian mindset that chooses a poor diet and a lifetime battle with obesity simply because they detest the current Oval Office occupants and perceive a healthy school luncheon program as yet another example of big government telling them how to run their lives.

But, here's a plot twist worthy of Hitchcock. I agree! I say let these next generation Einsteins and Edisons poison their bodies. Let them balloon up to 400 pounds or more. Let them declare a personal declaration of independence (that insures massive health problems just a few decades down the road).

But, my friends, as Clint Eastwood might say to an empty chair, "caveat calories."

We'll be the ones left footing the bills for our big bellied peers. Rising health care costs will simply continue to escalate just like the waistlines of those anti-Obama types who are doing nothing more than a midriff variation of cutting off their nose to spite their face.

I'd continue, but there's a syrup-laden stack of 25 pancakes sitting in front of me that's just begging to be inhaled. Besides, I'm hungry and 10,000 calories of pure lard is just what the doctor (oops, make that the mortician) ordered.

Sep 25

Yo, you got a problem with helping dinosaurs, or what?

Falling_dinosaurs_zone_highway_sign_magnet-p147727549144805143bmmm2gru_400Did you know there's a mini theme park in the bowels of the New Jersey Meadowlands that bills itself as Jurassic Jersey? I always thought Snooki was the Garden State's resident velociraptor but, apparently I'm wrong.

Field Station: Dinosaurs features “…31 life-sized, animatronic dinosaurs including the 90-foot-long Argentinosaurus, the largest animatronic dinosaur ever made.”

New Jersey needs a dino theme park like it needs another case of racketeering.

And, how about the poor beasts? They're now shoulder-to-shoulder (and sharing the 'hood) with:

- Toxic waste dumps
- The bones of countless Mob victims
- Oil refineries spewing their special mix of hellish gases skyward
- Jimmy Hoffa

The dinos are also being bombarded by:

- The deafening sounds of jets taking off and landing from Newark Liberty International Airport (a unique hell unto itself)
- The sight of millions upon millions of Jersey Turnpike drivers cutting one another off and shouting X-rated epithets at one another.

Worst of all, the 31 dinos are only a short, 10-minute stroll from New Jersey Transit's Frank R. Lautenberg Rail Station at Secaucus Junction (and, what I wouldn't give to see a T-Rex stomping all over Secaucus Junction. Talk about poetic justice).

This is a simultaneous case of dinosaur and Garden State abuse.

Have we no shame?

If the dinosaurs could roar for themselves, they'd say, “Fuggedaboutit!”

Since they can't, I'm starting a 'Save the Jersey Dinos' relief fund. Our goal is simple: raise enough money to blow up Field Station: Dinosaurs or relocate it to Florida or Long Island (they're one and the same anyway).

My next step is to enlist a John Travolta, Bruce Willis or some other famous Jersey native to embrace the cause.

But, you can do your bit as well. If you care about the image of dinosaurs, New Jersey or Jimmy Hoffa, send your check or money order to:

'Yo, you got a problem with saving dinosaurs, or what?'
c/o The second Hess Oil refinery on the left Exit 15E New Jersey Turnpike East Orange, NJ 07857

Sep 24

Chick-flip-flop-A

24300281It's one thing to draw a line in the sand and, right or wrong, defend one's position. George W. Bush spent eight years in the White House doing just that. And, while I personally disagreed with just about every decision he made, I admired the man's courage of convictions.

That's why I find Chick-fil-A's sudden about- turn on corporate donations about as tasty as a month-old bucket of chicken nuggets. In fact, the move, while astute, tells me the corner office blinked.

This sort of mixed messaging and flip-flopping on key issues is exactly what caused Massachusetts Senator John Kerry the 2004 presidential election. As Republicans correctly pointed out, Kerry changed his vote time and again on key issues. And, Chick-fil-A has just done the same thing. So, consider me the fast food version of a Swift Boater.

Some Repman readers may not like my dredging up the Chick-fil-A story again. But, so be it.

When I penned my original thoughts on Chick-fil-A's president’s decision to publicly discuss his views on marriage, the Repman comments section lit up like Times Square on New Year's Eve.

And, the separate guest column I wrote for Inc. Magazine that was, in turn, re-published by The Wall Street Journal also engendered the wrath of more than a few bible thumpers. (Note: one cowardly individual used the blog as an excuse to end his relationship with my firm.) So much for Christian charity.

Unlike Chick-fil-A, I stand by my decisions. By back-stepping and double talking to please everyone, Chick-fil-A has succeeded only in alienating its original base (and reinforcing the average American's belief that we simply can't believe anyone anymore).

As for me, I'll always think of this forgettable fast food purveyor as Chick-flip-flop-A and not Chick-fil-A.

Sep 21

Piler or filer?

Piler
Yesterday's guest blog from Angela P. 'Mrs. Repman' Cody got me
thinking about her many traits and qualities. Most, of course, are highly
admirable (and, that was a paid political announcement).

But one, in fact, runs contrary to conventional wisdom about men and women.
Angie, you see, is a piler.

By that I mean, she tends to, shall we say, accumulate things that I would toss
away faster than Lindsay Lohan can get into trouble. Some might also label
Angie's piling ways as hoarding and, based upon the number of empty garbage
bags that routinely rocket out of our kitchen drawers when opened, I'd tend to
agree.

Angie also likes to hang onto ancient artifacts from our adult kids' childhood,
defending her actions by noting, “Hey, their kids' kids will need them one day.”
I'm hard pressed to think Chris, Jr., will aspire to one day lay claim to Aunt
Catharine's badly battered, circa 1991 desk. But, whatever.

Angie's piling ways are not dissimilar from yet another member of the distaff
side with whom I've worked for well over a decade. I've found that, she, too,
is a quasi-horder. In fact, I distinctly recall walking into her office on more
than one occasion, sitting down in a chair across the desk from her's and being
unable to see her due to piles upon piles of dead client folders blocking my
view.

Let the record show, however, that this executive has changed her ways since
relocating to new space on a new floor and is now the very picture of
organization.

Despite the findings of a 2005 survey of office workers by long-time Peppercom client
Steelcase
, I don't think sloppiness is gender-specific. And, I've
sure met many women who defy the neatness trend Steelcase spotted. In fact,
highly placed sources within our New York office have revealed that the person
who has daily left dirty dishes behind in our pristine kitchen is, in fact,
female. So there.

Before concluding, though, I must share a brief anecdote about the ultimate
filer: my former, alpha male boss at Brouillard Communications.

This guy put the A in anal retentive. He was so obsessed with neatness and
order that he insisted our brow-beaten secretaries equip conference room tables
with agency-branded writing tablets and agency-branded number two pencils that
HAD to be finely sharpened, turned logo side up and be of the number two,
S.A.T. test variety.

I remember the ruckus he created when our unsuspecting office manager placed a
new order for pencils and mistakenly selected a hodgepodge of numbers one, two
and three pencils, respectively. The CEO went positively postal, and screamed, “Brouillard
has always been a number two pencil agency, and will remain so as long as I'm
at the helm. Cancel that order and get me nothing BUT number two pencils! And
deduct any extra costs from your next paycheck." I kid you not.

By the way, this guy's life motto was: 'Organization is liberation.' Again, I
kid you not.

So, what about you? Are you a piler or a filer? And, does being too neat or too
messy impact one's image and reputation? I'd go on, but I need to polish my
Blackberry keyboard and buff the screen.

Sep 20

You’ve Got Friends!

It’s taken seven, long years for this to finally come to fruition, but Angela P. Cody has authored her first guest column for Repman. I do hope you enjoy it. — Repman

Today’s guest post is by Angela “Mrs. Repman” Cody

Slide1bbbGot friends?  I do, about 243 of them, at least on Facebook.  My kids have over 400 each!  And if it says it on Facebook, must it not be so?  But, there are Facebook friends and then there are real friends.   And today I take a minute to ponder and explain the difference.  As an avid Facebooker myself, today I question, marvel at, and poke humor at this incredible phenomenon known as social media.

In reality, I probably have about 20 friends, some closer than others, and some that AREN’T even on Facebook!  These are the ones whose friendships I’ve earned over the years.  Back in the day before Facebook, a person strove for the affirmation, validation and good will of friends, relatives and colleagues.  One worked to maintain a good reputation and integrity through kindness, compassion and good deeds – continually, every day of the year. Friendship was – and still is, of course, off line, an active, give-and-take bond that takes hard work.  But Facebook has made it too easy!

On Facebook, everybody likes me and I like them!  On Facebook,  ones foibles or bad qualities  are rarely revealed, unless  you count the bragging, boastful and self-congratulatory tone that most members adopt when posting  their everyday triumphs and successes.  And even THEN they like you, generously overlooking such self-absorption!  They reinforce your amazingness, often to the point of fawning with their congratulations and good cheer.  Everyone is helpful, everyone is reassuring, everyone admires and is admired in return.  Everyone is a winner.

Here are some Facebook posts and comments I’d like to see, if for no other reason than to break the monotony.  Note:  there is still no ‘dislike’ option.

I/my husband/wife/kid got the job! – Likes: 25.  Comments: “It’s about time!”  “How much longer were you gonna let him freeload!”  “Yeah, but is that really a career?”   

Here’s my kid’s/niece’s/nephew’s new baby/prom/5th place award ceremony/mug shot picture. – Likes: 15. Comments: “Yikes!”  “Ouch!”  “Mine’s cuter.”  “Did he make bail?”

My friend/relative/cat/dog/ferret suddenly passed away! – Likes: 0.  Comments:   “Well she WAS old!” “He shouldn’t have smoked in the first place!”  “That’s what happens when you cross the street while texting!”

Had a wonderful vacation with so and so in Bermuda/Greece/Bayonne – with pictures, too many.  Likes: 10.  Comments:  “Hardly noticed you were gone!”  “Looks like those midnight buffets were delicious!” “I love Bayonne!”

Cute picture of lion/hippo/whale/ferret performing funny antics. – Likes: 12.  Comment: “Big deal.  My pig did the same thing yesterday.”

Famous, witty or profound quote from Mark Twain/Oscar Wilde/Thomas Jefferson.  Likes: 0. Comment:  “Huh?”   

Charity logo that provokes mild discomfort:  Please donate to my cause! – Likes:  0. Comments:  “They have a charity for THAT?”  “You’re sucking me dry!”

The truly mundane:  So tired!  Going to bed early tonight! -  Likes: 0. Comment:  “You’re confusing me with someone who cares.”

And the positively inane:  Checking out grout! with so and so at Home Depot. – Likes: 1. Comments:  “What color did you pick out?”  “Get a life!”

And lest I forget, Happy Birthday! – Likes:  numerous.  Comments:  “You're old!”  “Guess it’s time for Botox!”  “Not for nothin’, but you forgot mine!”

The trouble with Facebook is that it is a passive activity, requiring virtually no effort or brain function. But like I said, I too, am a loyal Facebooker and have posted in self-aware earnest.  And despite my criticisms, I have found much good about the technology.  I found a dog walker.  I raised over $2,000 for a dear friend with ALS.  I learned that Mitt Romney once drove on the interstate with his dog tied to the roof of his car. 

And recently, with my 40th high school reunion approaching, I was able to re-connect with old friends I had not seen or spoken to in years, catching up and re-living some treasured shared memories.  And as often is the way on Facebook, I made some new friends – old classmates with whom I never shared so much as a “hello” in high school.  Thanks to Facebook, now the class of ‘72’s geeks and jocks, hippies and hoods, cheerleaders and sluts (sometimes one and the same) are all one, big happy family.  Now, where else could that happen but on Facebook!

Sep 19

Who’s who trumps who’s that

Today's post is dedicated to Peppercom President, Ted "IPN" Birkhahn.

Il_fullxfull.373478mm271_2a90As we compete against more and more global agencies, I'm often asked by prospective clients about our breadth and depth.

“I'm really impressed with what I've heard so far, but we need feet on the ground in markets such as Vietnam and Kazakhstan,” a chief communications officer will declare.

I'll pause, and then respond by asking if he needs bodies or minds. That usually produces a pause on his part, followed by a statement along the lines of “Well, we'll be calling the shots here in Oshkosh, but we need to be sure the messaging is consistently communicated in all key markets."

And, that provides me with my opening. “Well, as a global agency veteran, I can assure you that consistency isn't exactly the calling card of many international firms. Sure, they'll have offices in 62 countries. But, each specializes in a different field. So, Milan may be world class in say, fashion PR, but good luck having them communicate a global re-brand for a multinational industrial powerhouse like yours.”

I then point to the team surrounding me at the conference room table, and tell the prospect what he already knows. “Whether it's with us, another independent midsized firm or a global powerhouse, your relationship will be with the precious few who constitute your day-to-day account team. And, what you see today is what you'll get tomorrow: a ‘who's who’ team that's worked together in the past to solve the same challenge you just described. What you buy with a global firm is a ‘who's that’ goulash of PR types with all sorts of previous experience and media contacts- experience and contacts that may, or may not, align with your needs.”

Make no mistake, though: global campaigns that merely require implementation SHOULD be enacted by the large holding companies. But, I'm seeing more and more clients selecting smart, midsized firms who, through their carefully vetted international partner networks, can assemble a sector-specific, who's who team in Vietnam, Kazakhstan, or anywhere else for that matter.

If I were a client, I'd want a who's who team advising me on a strategic program across 25 countries; not a who's that group who, while they may draw their paychecks from the same holding company, have more areas of "expertise" than the Balkans have states.

Sep 18

Finally, a CEO who can both dish it out and take it

Presentation1Allow me to begin by saying I think Dish President & CEO Joe Clayton belongs right alongside Thomas Edison and Benjamin Franklin in the pantheon of greatest inventors of all time.

In case you're in the dark, Clayton's company, Dish Network, invented the AutoHop Ad-Skipper. In effect, it enables TV viewers to erase commercials from the face of the earth. In my book, that's akin to ending world hunger.

As one might expect, though, Clayton is seen as the antichrist by ad agencies and mainstream broadcast networks alike. Recently, in fact, CBS CEO Les Moonves threatened Clayton, saying he would remove The Tiffany Network's content from The Dish Network. What a bully!

But, was the DaVinci of Da Dish cowed? Did he curl up in a ball and plead, “Oh, Mr. Moonves, sir, please don't take away my CBS!” Au contraire mon frère. Clayton responded with a right hook to the jaw of the CBS potentate that would put smiles on the faces of the late Rocky Marciano, Joe Louis and Smokin' Joe Frazier, respectively.

Clayton said, “Give the consumer a better experience and everybody wins. The fast-forward button didn't kill the television business." Zing!

And, of course, Clayton is right. The mindless pap that masquerades as prime-time programming nowadays is what's killing TV. And, the commercials that help pay the freight for the vast wasteland that is prime-time TV are just as bad.

Clayton's defiance displays more than courage. It shows he's willing to put his money where his mouth is by sustaining the huge hit that the loss of ALL CBS programming would cause. But, that's what also makes him such a rare breed.

This world needs a whole lot more Clayton and a whole lot less Moonves. We need leaders who, like Clayton, can both dish it out and take it. Now, where DID I leave my ad-skipper?

Sep 17

A snowball’s chance

Snowball.hell.no noWere I to attempt to enroll in my alma mater, Northeastern University, I wouldn't have the proverbial snowball's chance of gaining admittance.

That's because, arguably, Northeastern is America's hottest college or university. In fact, N.U. is white hot. But, before I support my claim, allow me first to disclose that, yes, I was recently named one of Northeastern's 100 most successful alumni in the school's first 100 years and, in the interests of full disclosure, yes, my firm is providing strategic counsel to the school.

So, with that taken care of, ponder these facts:

- Northeastern's cooperative education model (or, co-op, as its better known) is in HUGE demand. That's because co-op neatly blends real-world research with work experience in a student's chosen field of study (as a journalism major, for example, my co-op jobs included working as a news clerk at The New York Times, an on-air reporter at WGCH Radio in Greenwich, CT, and a news writer at CBS News Radio in Boston). So, N.U. grads enter the workplace with a HUGE competitive advantage over their peers from Harvard, Stanford or NYU.

- The real-world experience translates to full-time job offers after graduation. Indeed, as Sue Shellenbarger noted in her Wall Street Journal column last week, fully 50 percent of N.U. grads were offered full-time gigs from one of their co-op employers in 2011. Only 18 percent of college grads across the nation scored full-time employment during the same 12-month period!

- Since University President Joseph Aoun took the reins in 2006, Northeastern has risen a breathtaking 42 spots in the prestigious U.S. News & World Report rankings of America's best colleges and universities. N.U. was just ranked 56th in the nation. Were I a Billboard Magazine editor, I'd have added a bullet next to the school's ranking. It's zooming to the top.

- Two former Northeastern drop-outs, who later returned to earn degrees at the school, just donated $30 million each to endow a new school of business. How often do drop-outs pony up $60 million to their former school?

- Last, but not least, the school has become a veritable bastion of academic rigor. The average S.A.T. score of 2,800 students admitted this past spring was a stunning 1361. It was 1230 in 2006. And, I'm embarrassed to share the S.A.T. score the 'old' N.U. let this blogger slide by with when they green lighted me way back when. BTW, those 2,800 students were selected from a total applicant pool of, drum roll please, 44,206. The latter number is up well over 15 percent in less than two years.

It all adds up to two realities:

1.)    My alma mater is a best-in-class example of what the future model of colleges & universities will look like, and…
2.) I wouldn't stand a snowball's chance in h*ll of getting into the school today.