Creative Mornings Features Its Audience Members On Instagram

Creative Mornings provides a monthly talk on a chosen topic (for free) in cities around the globe. Unlike Ted, it’s not exclusive. You can sign up or walk up and enjoy a donut, coffee, and interesting ideas about architecture, design, culture, and so on.

Creative Mornings is also an excellent marketer. The organization is featuring members from around the world on its Instagram page. I am fortunate to be one such featured member.

The answers I provided were in response to a prompt in the submission form. I now have more room to elaborate. I wasn’t happy working in the traditional agency structure, because of the daily diet of shit sandwiches that are required of most ad agency workers.

When you can’t be honest with your clients or with your peers in the agency, you can’t deliver what’s required—thinking and doing that provides a path for greater growth and a fuller understanding of brand value.

Follow The Money

The Koch brothers lost this Presidential election to the Mercer family, but they won plenty of House and Senate seats to make sure their bidding gets done.

The master puppeteers who pull all the strings behind the screen hold a truly dark view of America and the people in it. To see just how dark their worldview is, let’s take a look at the Koch’s holdings: Minerals. Oil. Coal. Chemicals. Beef. Wood. Not one of these product categories is sustainable.

The billionaires are in a race to the end. Their apocalyptic vision is that the Earth’s natural resources will be extracted and used by them, for gross profits, no matter what the damage is to the environment. This short-sightedness is only possible when the ultra-rich can successfully escape the global climate crisis. The thing with that is climate change can hit with alarming speed. Drought, fires, or an ice age can all sweep in and leave famine in its wake. Nevertheless, the players continue to make horrible bets with our collective future.

Do you see how the political drama is all about the battle over finite natural resources? Sure, you and I may care about gun control, our failing schools or reproductive rights. The billionaires care much more about controlling raw resources, and in their shitstem, “we the people” are mere “labor units.”

It is time to stop obsessing over Hillary and Don, Blue and Red states, Democrats and Republicans. The super rich versus everyone else is not binary. It’s a few powerful families against the rest of humanity. As long they keep us divided, they keep us conquered.

Disruption Can Be Good, But Distrust Is Poison.

We are one week from election day 2016. The American experiment appears to be teetering on a precipice. While this is at once frightening and disturbing, I believe we’re living through a necessary disturbance in the system. Binary systems are breaking down. Industries are being disrupted left and right. Politics is no exception to radical disruption, in fact, the two-party lock hold on our democracy is more than ripe for fundamental change.

The democracy we believe in is actually an oligarchy, and it has been from the inception. At the time of the nation’s birth, democracy meant democracy for white land-owning men only. Black men could not vote until the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution passed on February 3, 1870. American women of all races and economic classes were not given the right to vote until the 19th Amendment was passed on June 4, 1919. The historical trend has been toward equal rights for all. We placed this high ideal in our nation’s founding documents, and we’ve been flexible enough to update the meaning from generation to generation.

Today, there’s a darkening cloud over our land, and a push to reverse the liberalization of core American ideals. The tension is creating a new level of ugliness on the ground and in our media reflections of self. There are reasons to be alarmed when neighbor turns on neighbor and friend on friend. According to Pew Research Center, 81% of Americans agree that supporters of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump not only disagree over plans and policies but also disagree on “basic facts.”

The reason we can’t agree on basic facts anymore is news media has been blown to bits by cable and again by the internet. As of early 2016, just two-in-ten U.S. adults often get news from print newspapers. This has fallen from 27% in 2013. I wonder what the stats are for Americans who get their news from The Guardian?

Should the worst happen and HRC lose this election, there will be hell to pay and it will be easy to find fault. Her campaign team has limited her ability to speak forcefully on her own behalf. “When they go low, we go high,” may be the pitch-perfect tone for the Obamas. It’s far from the ideal stance for Hillary and Bill Clinton. Hill and Bill need to be themselves and tear political flesh. By the way, where in the hell is Bill Clinton right now? Is he locked away in a room? I understand that this is Hillary’s campaign and her team wants it to be all about her, not him. But “the him” in this case is the former President of the United States and one hell of a campaigner.

Why are the Dems missing the mark? Is it because “we the people” can’t tolerate a bossy woman who tells it like it is? The Dems are risking victory by muzzling Hillary and hiding Bill. This is a stupid strategy. We need bold leaders who take the wheel and steer the ship safely into harbor. It’s time to see Hillary as someone who takes charge, not as the policy wonk with bad email habits.

Whatever happens next Tuesday, disruptive change is here to stay. The nation is crying out for new energy and a renewed focus on the common good. We can argue about how to achieve it, but we can’t waste time debating whether the common good is a good thing. If you don’t believe that it is, you’re anti-American and anti-democratic. You’re also deeply deluded. The world doesn’t revolve around America, any one political party, or you. As President Obama likes to remind us…democracy is messy and it takes a team dedicated to common principles. I am confident that people from all walks of life can agree that every American wants to enjoy freedom and prosperity. Let’s stick with that for now, and find a way to work together.

The Don Wants Free Americans Under His Under-Sized Thumb

It pains me to admit that Donald Trump, a.k.a. The Don, knows more about the inner workings of today’s monolithic media companies than his opponent. But he does. From experience, he knows that big media favors entertainment over news and sensationalism over facts.

Media companies make more money by feeding us hollow celebrity-driven mind-candy than they do breaking down difficult topics of worldwide importance. We can fault them for their lack of honest coverage, or we can accept that all companies operate in a market environment, including CNN, Fox, NBC and the rest. If you want real news you will need to seek it out from independent global sources, which requires time, some skills and serious effort.

Americans are busy working on their masterpiece, whether that means raising a family, creating a company from scratch or applying paint to a canvas. We are busy and many of us are self-absorbed to a point of recklessness. In other words, the conditions on the ground are tenuous.

Who will win Ohio, Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and other battleground states? Who will win the popular vote?

We are currently looking at a classic contest that pits policy versus personality. In one corner we have the hard working policy wonk, in the other corner a circus ringmaster. It’s the most awkward political competition of modern times. Those of us who like to read and think are voting for Hillary Clinton. The question is: “Are there more of us than them?” This is a scary question. Nearly half of college graduates never read another book following graduation, and we are in the midst of the greatest “dumbing down” our nation has ever seen. Are we dumb enough to elect a white nationalist, male chauvinist pig to the highest office in the land? No thinking person wants to say yes.

During the first debate last Monday night, The Don tried to paint Hillary as someone who needs $100 million in Madison Avenue wizardry to get her message across, whereas he just needs an open mic and a willing camera crew. I despise The Don, but he scores points with people because of his simple-minded answers, very much like “W” did before him. Take the debate discussion about Chicago and gun violence. The Don was successful in painting Obama’s city as totally lawless. When it was Hillary’s turn to counter on this point, she could have ripped the NRA and gun makers a new one, but she did not.

Overall, her presentation lacked passion. She could have hit him hard. Instead, she was coached to remain calm—precisely because she is a woman and her voice may sound shrill when she’s agitated—but how calm can she or anyone remain under the circumstances? It was just 16 years ago that the sitting Vice President won the popular vote, but lost the election, thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Florida malfeasance. Now here we are again with two unpopular candidates, a complicit media and a nation fully doped on the TV narcotic. I want to believe that America is the land of the free, but no one will be free under fascist rule.

I don’t overstate the case, despite its dramatic nature. For one, our economic viability is dependent on stable markets, which is delivered by the steady hands of wise leaders. If The Don wins, the global economy will spin into turmoil overnight. Before he would even be sworn in, the economy will have flown from the precarious cliff upon which it rests. The Don is also facing his Trump University fraud trial in late November. I believe he will be convicted in this case, no matter what happens on November 8. If he wins the White House, we may have a convicted felon preparing to take office and an economy in total shambles.

It’s a bleak picture of an America that no one wants to see, but we do need to imagine it. Germans laughed at the idiot Hitler. Then their economy collapsed and he rose to power. To say we are playing with matches by allowing a Hitler-like candidate to ascend to power is putting things much too mildly. We’ve gone bat-shit crazy as a nation. I don’t want to blame any one faction for this, I just want common sense to reign. We are all in this together, and we better get busy pulling our collective heads out of our asses before it’s too late.

Associated Press Steals Home Base With A Robot

Associated Press Steals Home Base With A Robot

Automation is spreading its wings throughout the land. In marketing, many brands use marketing automation to manage their email outreach. This form of digital disruption has reared its head in education, medicine and many other fields, including media.

According to Poynter, Associated Press will begin using an automated writing service to cover more than 10,000 minor league baseball games annually.

Storm Chaser on the mound

AP has been using automated writing in some form since July 2014, when it began using technology from Automated Insights to produce earnings report stories. The AP now uses automation to produce more than 3,500 earnings reports stories about U.S. companies every quarter.

No one can deny the value of data for journalism enterprises. It’s vital, like water for crops. But can a machine spit out compelling copy? Of course not. What the machine can do is assemble the data. This happened, then that happened and so on…

Facts assembled on a page is not writing. And an earnings report is not a baseball game. A baseball game is an event with dozens of players and thousands of spectators. There’s a lot going on at a minor league game that a machine isn’t going to register.

  • Was the sun in the right fielder’s eyes?
  • Which players are the fan’s favorites?
  • Did the umpire make the right call?
  • Is the mascot okay after that backflip off the dugout?

One might argue that any coverage of minor league baseball is better than no coverage at all. Okay, but what’s wrong with hiring reporters to write these pieces? Could it be that reporters are too expensive to employ? Perhaps, but people with talent and training produce higher quality writing, so it’s a matter of perspective. Facts versus stories. Robots versus real writers.

Many writers who work for online content mills are getting paltry pay for their efforts. I’m confident that newspapers can help elevate the profession, despite the industry’s ongoing struggles. Whatever bottom line a newsroom is facing, there’s also the need to face facts. Data informs the story. Data is not the story.

We’ve Been So Shocked By Trump’s Rise, There’s Been No Time To Bid The G.O.P. Adieu

It’s an interesting time in America. We’re facing our demons as a nation right now, and this can make for an unstable and sometimes frightening situation on the ground. For instance, hating people of color and women is now an acceptable form of protest. The Donald has released the masses to take vile language and behavior to a new national low.

Sadly, this problem is here to stay. Whoever ends up in the White House will be vilified and hated, just as Obama is and Bush before him. Therefore, we’ve already lost. We lost because we no longer know how to be kind to strangers, or even to friends should they dare to disagree.

Our insistence on inflexible political identities, fueled by an unconscious and unregulated media, is dividing us more efficiently than ever before. If members of the professional media will not help clarify the facts and tell the truth, our center of gravity is unmoored. Our democracy, if we dare call it that, is floating on a sea of lies, and that’s a precarious situation if there ever was one.

Willful Ignorance Is The Ultimate Culture Jam

President Obama recently said, “When our leaders express a disdain for facts, when they’re not held accountable for repeating falsehoods and just making stuff up, when actual experts are dismissed as elitists, then we’ve got a problem.”

Yes, and the problem is a pox on the American house. When facts fail to match up with one’s worldview, the facts too often get tossed aside. What else do we lose with the discarding of reason? In my view, we lose the nation. We can’t successfully manage a complicated multi-cultural society with this kind of anti-intellectual hostility in the air.

It’s clear that our lack of investment in education is now a massive issue, as too many people lack both curiosity and knowledge.

  • Did you know that the U.S. ranked 16th out of 23 countries in literacy proficiency, 21st in numeracy proficiency and 14th in problem-solving in technology-rich environments?
  • Did you know that 32,000,000 Americans can’t read?
  • Did you know that 42% of college graduates don’t plan to read another book after graduation?

Funny how the stats above do nothing to support the idea of American exceptionalism. That concept is dying fast, especially as the rest of the world looks in on our Presidential race in horror. What’s horrible to me is the fact that this election may not be decided on merit. We live in a culture addicted to TV and other forms of media. Whoever entertains the audience best, wins. And no politician can touch The Donald on this.

I know people are going to fight this idea and refuse to believe Trump could soon be President. That’s the real danger, that we don’t take him or his run for office seriously. As a media professional, I see how he can win. Do you think Hillary will turn on the charm and compete in this reality program? Not going to happen. Which means people will be left to choose between a seasoned policy wonk and a TV-savvy showman.

Hillary is a smart, practical, problem-solver. She makes great policy, but lousy television. Which is frightening, because policy, while the backbone of governing, isn’t something that moves people at the ballot box.

Thankfully, the Numbers Point to Support for Diversity and Inclusion

Nearly one-in-three eligible voters on Election Day (31%) will be Hispanic, black, Asian or another racial or ethnic minority.

I’m far from a data freak, but this particular data point is the most comforting thing I’ve read in weeks. Whatever your political POV, the numbers do not lie and the numbers are squarely on the side of inclusion and diversity.

To win the White House, The Donald will need to secure every Republican’s vote, which is highly unlikely. He will also need to win a majority of independents, as 43% of the nation’s eligible voters are not affiliated with a political party. In short, there are not enough Republican voters for any candidate from that decaying party to win a national election. You appeal to the middle or you lose.

Winning either party’s nomination requires niche marketing. Winning the White House requires mass appeal across a wide demographic swath of voters. Trump used reality TV tactics to gain the nomination, but his made-for-TV sensationalism won’t be sensational forever. In fact, the sting of his comments is weakening by the day, as more and more people conclude that Trump is a danger precisely because he’s a fraud. He may also be a fascist intent on authoritarian rule, but, for now, that’s mostly a fantasy he shares with his racist, xenophobic, homophobic and sexist friends.

More Local Action And Extra Doses of Compassion

One of the biggest stories of the political season is how little things are truly changing at the state and local level. The nation might be ready for a new administration in the White House, but the desire seems to end there.

The reality is just one incumbent in Congress—Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.)—lost his or her primary race this year. Just one, and he is indicted on bribery and money laundering charges.

Politics, despite the media parade at the top, is entrenched. From the left and the right, people are clamoring for change and it seems unlikely that the change is coming. This fact, more than any other, is disturbing to me. All the Presidential candidates promise a vision of America that won’t happen because their vision requires compromise, and negotiating difficult legislation (like gun control) through the muck of the Capitol. It’s an explosive situation because people of every political stripe are looking for answers right now, and the answers people need are unlikely to come from Washington, DC or from anyone on television.

Working for change is something we all need to take responsibility for. Maybe, we run for local office, volunteer our time in the community or simply spend more time in the community garden (helping to feed people!). Whatever it is that helps us maintain our balance, I think we are all going to be called on to reach deeper into our hearts and remember that political enemies are also fellow Americans and quite literally our family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. Let’s commit to a deeper degree of personal patience and remember to express gratitude for the fact that civil debate and peaceful elections are the American way.

The scary fact is two-thirds of Americans would have difficulty coming up with the money to cover a $1,000 emergency. This says all there is to know about conditions on the ground. The majority of people are scared and in many cases justifiably angry. The billionaire class has moved manufacturing offshore and their untaxed profits too. Meanwhile, the people of Flint, Michigan are being poisoned with tainted water and the poor, black children of Chicago live in a war zone. At the same time, we’re finding new cures for cancer, discovering signs of life on Mars and making beautiful music, literature, food and so on. Dark and light dance. As things fall apart, we work to replace them with even better solutions. It doesn’t mean everything new is necessarily better, it means there’s always room for improvement and that collectively we can raise the bar on education, infrastructure, and common decency.

It’s far from time to “Make America Great Again,” rather it’s high time to help Americans believe in themselves and in each other again. It’s time to stop bitching and start pitching in.

Flipping Ageism and Ad Agency B.S. The Bird

In the advertising agency business, it’s best to get out before you get old. Or so goes the common wisdom. Naturally, there are many notable exceptions. David Ogilvy was 39 when he wrote his first ad, and he spent the next 25 years of his life actively involved in the making of advertising.

One could argue that it’s a job for young people, due to the late nights, immense workload and high pressure situations that come with landing and keeping multi-million dollar clients.

Joanthan Cude of McKinney believes one must become and then remain “resilient” to survive in advertising.

As I began ruminating on life and advertising, I couldn’t help but think about how, as one ages from 25 to 50, advertising becomes a steep pyramid, and people fall off in droves. It’s not necessarily because their talent dims or because they lose their ability to think critically or because they can no longer connect with young consumers. It’s because, for all the psychic highs an agency career can bestow, it comes with a tremendous amount of wear and frustration. Much of your best thinking and a lot of blood, sweat and tears end up on the proverbial cutting-room floor.

Cude doesn’t mention ageism in his article, or the fact that if you’re over 40 and working in an ad agency, you better be working from a corner office or your days are numbered. Instead, he puts the blame squarely on the people who fail to be resilient. Of course, that POV is a failure in itself. Let me rephrase resilience. Let’s call it shit-sandwich eating, because that’s a lot closer to reality. Some totally sane, resilient people simply opt out, not because they’re beaten down by the ad game. Some people find or create a better game for themselves, which is the ultimate act of resilience.

Also, let’s examine a few cogent facts here. Agency attrition has nothing to do with older people not knowing how to relate, or sell, to younger people. Younger people are clearly not the demo. According to Media Post, Americans older than 50 have double the discretionary spending power of any other age group. The average head of household is 52. The average new car buyer is 56. The average Mac user is 54.

In short, the market for goods and services is dominated by people who are over 50, but the people charged with serving up the marketing strategies, the creative ideas and all the rest that helps drive the economy forward are much younger, sometimes decades younger.

What if young people work in advertising because they don’t know any better? Seriously. It’s easy to be swayed by a decent salary and beautiful workspace, plus the chance to see your work on TV or in print. Put another way, what if young people are the only people agency owners and managers can convince to work there?

When we moved to Oregon, I was 43. I half-heartedly looked for an agency job here. Given the tattered economy and my own disgruntlement with the agency business model, I needed a new answer. For a time, I thought I’d need to leave advertising and start over. Then I saw what I needed to do. I needed to separate what I love about the work, from what I detest about the toxic agencies where it is created. From this initial spark, Bonehook was born.

Bonehook is now the anti-agency. I’m a critic and a practitioner of advertising, and my company is a reflection of me. The agency business is bloated, antiquated and a great waster of the client’s time and money. We start from this premise and ask prospective clients if they’d like the traditional treatment, or if they’d prefer a better way.

An Unsavory Look Inside The Media’s Sausage Factory

“Information without context strikes the mind but peters out before the heart.” -Sarah Smarsh

Creative nonfiction is a form I find myself increasingly drawn to. In the hands of a great essayist, we see a real writer struggle with real life.

Sarah Smarsh, for instance. She is a Kansas-born journalist, public speaker and educator, and her recent piece of media criticism in Aeon struck a nerve.

In a media landscape of zip-fast reports as stripped of context as a potato might be stripped of fibre, most news stories fail to satiate. We don’t consume news all day because we’re hungry for information – we consume it because we’re hungry for connection. That’s the confusing conundrum for the 21st century heart and mind: to be at once over-informed and grasping for understanding.

In her essay, Smarsh exposes the mechanics of reporting and the news business as one culprit in the dehumanization on news. She also explores the need for real story, versus packaged up text masquerading as coherent content. Regarding what is sometimes called “hard news” she writes:

…in J-school my peers and I learned never to call 10 inches of lede, nutgraph and body an ‘article’ – true journos, we were told, call them ‘stories’

I hear and admire Smarsh’s call for a higher standard in today’s metric-fed mediascape. Media enterprises need page views, subscribers, events, merchandise and ad dollars to survive. I get that, and most writers get that. We also get that there’s a need to make a product or service out of our writing, and for the most part, we are happy to abide by these terms. Perhaps publishers, editors and writers can begin to work towards more equitable outcomes all around.

Smarsh writes about how we’re “hungry for connection” today. I agree. Imagine hiring a great chef, sous chef, line cooks and prep cooks and outfitting them with all the best kitchen equipment. But then you tie their hands when it comes to ingredients—all this talented crew can make is pork and beans, onion soup and tater tots. Publishers are in a hurry to be mass feeders of media. Conventional wisdom says that’s where the money is.

Brands want a return on content. B. Bonin Bough of Mondelēz International argues that “without the metric of monetization, there really is no way for you to determine whether content is good or bad.”

Media companies also want a positive return on their investment in content. Meanwhile, people find it hard to pay attention, can’t sit still, can’t take it all in. A lot of smart people are working on answers to the media conundrum. I am glad, because it’s easy enough to see the connection between junk media and an unhealthy citizenry.

As a writer, I want to answer Smarsh’s call for more substance and more heart in the pieces we put into the world. As a reader and consumer of media, I want to scroll less and read and think more.

The Best Radio Stations In The World Are Inside Your Machine

One of the things I enjoy most about digital culture is the ability to listen to community radio stations around the country. It is something I do each day, and each day I find it as enriching as the last.

We become the media we consume. For your own sake and the sake of the nation, consume the best media you can find. Here, this list of amazing community radio stations will get you started provided that you like indie rock, jazz, blues, Americana and other forms of progressive music, opinion and news.

[listly id=”YPY” layout=”gallery” show_header=”true” show_author=”true” show_sharing=”true” show_tools=”true” per_page=”25″]

Associated Press Steals Home Base With A Robot

Media Literacy 101: Be Sold, But Not Fooled


I met Faris Yakob of Genius Steals at a conference hosted by Henry Jenkins at MIT a number of years ago. I recall being pleased that he was familiar with AdPulp. And it was fun to rap with someone I’d only known from afar at the time.

This morning, I learned that Faris wrote an opinion piece on content marketing for Campaign’s new U.S. site.

He notes that people are getting lost in semantics whilst searching for the definitive definition of the marketing practice. Here, let’s have a brief look:

One of the most often voiced is that content is not appropriately labelled — that its intent to commercially persuade the audience is veiled, which disrupts the church-and-state boundaries of editorial and advertising, and erodes the trust of the consumer in the publication, and indeed, in content overall.

One of the first things you would learn, if not the first thing, in a media literacy class is that no piece of content is objective. Everything comes with a point of view and looks to persuade you of that point of view, explicitly or otherwise.

No piece of content is objective, or neutral. I love that Faris is beating this particular drum. Journalists are not saints doing the work of a higher power. They tell news stories to make their publishers money. Just like copywriters in service to brands.

The promise of content marketing is simple. Brands who mine a substantive topical vein can connect in a real way with people by becoming the ultimate source, or the source with the best reporting, photography, videography and so on. Brand marketers have deep pockets for such coverage. Media companies do not, which means there is a vacuum that brands can fill for their benefit and the benefit of all.