Guns and butter

Dr. Walter Johnson, my Econ 51 professor from my Mizzou days, had a lecture he gave every year about guns and butter. If memory serves me correct, it dealt with the laws of supply and demand in relation to whether our economy could afford the cost of war (guns) and the cost of domestic programs (butter). In theory, if you invested more in one, you’d have to sacrifice with the other.

That basic thought passed through my brain as I was perusing today’s ad-packed edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Tuesday is never a big news day for the paper and today’s daily was certainly no exception.

Yesterday, I decided  I hadn’t written much about advertising recently so I vowed to scour the paper to see what ads really stood out to me. The only one I can remember in my day after recall is about the P-D’s cutest pet contest but that’s because I have a vested interest in it and encourage you to vote for Annie, the dog!

But I digress.

Today, I once again scoured the paper, looking for some ad to inspire me, to make me say, “Wow, I wish I had done that.”

Sadly, there were none to be found.

In fact, the only full page ad in the entire paper on Tuesday was for Denny Dennis Sporting Goods – only there were no soccer balls or football gear to be found in this sporting goods ad.

This was an ad for hunting gear – which is absolutely fine – though I do wonder what type of hunting is done with Ruger 9 mm pistols with lasermax or .380 Bodyguard pistols also equipped with that helpful laser sighting. The Optics ready .223 automatic rifle or the Flat Top .22LR also grabbed my attention as being great for blowing the absolute smithereens out of bunny rabbits.

If these are hunting rifles, someone please tell me what game they’re after.

These are guns for blowing away bad guys which brings me back to my whole guns and butter analogy.

If the largest advertiser in a major metropolitan newspaper is selling guns, what does that tell us about where we’re spending our money these days?

In the good old days of newspaper, full page ads used to showcase new fashion designs available at leading department stores (not many left) or hype non-stop airfares by major airlines (flew the coup) or feature large brokerage ads touting bullishness on America (not quite so bullish anymore) or at least full page ads from area grocery chains touting their latest sales that might even include … butter.

Those good old days are long gone. Newspapers across the country are struggling to stay in business. Large spending advertisers have taken their money elsewhere leading to a bunch of retail ads trying to sell gutters, tune ups, hearing aids, duct cleaning and for two days only – guns and ammo.

Demand for guns is up. In a city that has a reputation as being one of the most dangerous in all of America, I don’t like that as a leading economic indicator.

Please, buy more bread. And pass me the butter.


Vote for Annie, the dog

I generally try to stay out of politics, but in this election, I must assert myself.

The Post-Dispatch is having their Cutest Pet contest and I’m making it my mission to get the vote out for Annie Blood. – this will take you to the home page where you have to register to vote.

Annie has been part of our family for more than seven years. She was a rescue dog and we did the rescuing, getting her when she was about a year and a half old. She had already had puppies – she was in a puppy mill and apparently left outside all the time because she is absolutely petrified by thunder.

Her actual name when we got her was AnnaBelle. We liked Annie better –  though she is also referred to as Annie-Banannie, Boozy-butt, ‘Toe (a strange abbreviation for Little), Ern, and on occasion, Butt-hole. (Most of these names are too silly to bother explaining.

Annie’s one of the most loving, loyal, friendly and fun dogs you could ever hope to encounter. She has an unbelievable talent for dribbling a volleyball (soccer balls are too heavy for her 14 pounds). She is cute beyond words – photos certainly don’t do her justice but the one we entered will have to suffice. You can view it here –

My apologies for not posting the actual picture of Annie which I’m sure would immediately convince you that you simply have to vote for this dog. Any of our friends or family that know Annie would definitely vouch for her cuteness.

I looked at most of the photos in this contest and there really are some cute dogs out there.

We won’t be crushed if she doesn’t win. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Still, we know in our hearts that the cutest dog not just in St. Louis but the entire world can generally be found taking a nap, waiting for one of us to come home and play or take for her a walk.

Please vote for Annie. And in the spirit of any true election, vote early and vote often.


A tale of two Armstrongs

Neil Armstrong died today. His, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” quote ranks up there in history as one of the greatest comments ever made – definitely the most famous line ever uttered by anyone on something other than the earth.

He was 82. From everything I’ve read, he lived a long, good life and the tributes and the memories are already pouring in.

Meanwhile, Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his Tour de France titles by the U.S. Anti Doping Agency. Though it’s never been officially proven that Lance was using banned steroid to improve his overall performance, there is enough evidence to raise that reasonable doubt. So Lance threw in the towel and took the ban.

It’s yet to be figured out who will be officially rewarded the Tour de France titles – some of the second place finishers have been convicted of doping as well. While they’re figuring all that out, Lance is now banned from professional racing and his LiveStrong Foundation is in jeopardy.

He overcame quite a few odds, battling cancer to come back and win the Tour de France. But now people are wondering if LiveStrong has a different meaning to it.

It’s a shame that his memory is now tarnished.

That’s what can happen to public figures, though. That’s the price they pay.

You’ll never hear anyone saying anything bad about Neil Armstrong. He was a great astronaut, a great man who was the official face of the U.S. space program. His legacy will live on, his famous line will be remembered for generations to come.

Lance Armstrong will also be remembered. But how he’ll be remembered is a question that still remains to be answered.

Lance still has a lot of living to do. Perhaps he’ll rise above in some special way.

I hope so.

Live strong, Lance. Live strong.

My award-winning blog

Last week I found out that the very blog you’re reading right now is a finalist in this year’s St. Louis Business Marketing Association’s TAM Awards (Targeted Advertising/Marketing).

It was entered in the digital category under blogs. Entry requirements said the blog didn’t necessarily have to be business-related and I thought this one certainly qualified for that.

So it’s a finalist. Winners will be announced on Tuesday, September 25 in the Starlight Room at the Chase Park Plaza.

Considering the fact that I just became a blogger this past November, I’m rather pleased that it’s being recognized. The overall look of the page is nicely designed and for that, I thank Ed Madden and Barry Lee at E-merge Interactive. It also ties very nicely into the overall look of my website, also designed by the good folks at E-merge Interactive.

Regular readers of the blog know that very seldom are there links to other sites or embedded videos and most times, there aren’t any pictures, either. It’s just a bunch of words.

A few weeks ago, I passed 10,000 views overall. Somehow, someway, in the past nine months or so, 10,000 people were kind enough to click on the link via Facebook or twitter or Stumbled Upon or Digg and read what I’ve had to say. A very select group actually get my blog delivered via email every time I post. I thank each and every one of you for that.

I hope that from time to time, I can make you think or smile or write about something that you can identify with (like ending your sentences with a preposition).

I certainly don’t write this blog to win awards. I write it because I love to write.

And sometimes, I actually have a thought or two worth reading.

This may not be one of those occasions.

But thanks for reading anyway!

Is there hope for the Rams?

I was stunned by the Rams pre-season victory over the Chiefs last night.

It’s not that they won the game, they actually looked pretty good and were light years ahead of how they played last week.

Of course, it’s only the pre-season. Last year is a telling reminder of that when they won all four of their pre-season games only to blunder and fumble and mis-tackle their way to their mighty 2-14 record.

This is the losing-est franchise in professional football over the last five years. Maybe over the last seven. I’m not sure. I just know they’ve been terrible.

So was last night cause for optimism? Perhaps. Still, I can’t see this team winning more than 6, possibly 7 games this season. If they do that, everyone will call the season a success – a step in the right direction for a franchise that’s on the rebound. Unfortunately, 6-10 or 7-9 is not a lot of reason to celebrate. Everyone may point to the fact that Jeff Fisher has turned things around and got them heading in the right direction. Everyone should remember that Jeff Fisher is a slightly better than .500 career wins coach.

So winning the coveted Governor’s Cup was indeed a pleasant surprise. Kansas Citians must be shaking their heads this morning, wondering what happened to their once proud franchise. Football in Missouri has fallen on hard times. With the Tigers facing a daunting SEC schedule, wins should be celebrated and enjoyed in the state of Missouri, no matter who gets them.

Is there hope for the Rams? There’s always hope – that’s the good thing about hope.

So hope that Sam’s ankle doesn’t turn, D’Anorio can play in maybe 10 straight games, Saffold can stay onside, Stephen gets 1,500, Danny keeps his elbow from popping and James turns into Urlacher and maybe that hope will turn into actual reality and we’ll see a winning season.

For now, I will remain a doubting Thomas.


Our changing family dynamic

This is Tom Jr.’s last weekend at home before he heads off to college.

Granted, he’s not going very far – he’ll be living on campus at St. Louis U – but once he’s out the door, the dynamic will change.

Of course, it already has. Tom seems to spend more time away from home than he does at it. That’s no big surprise. When he’s here, he’s either involved in his music or talking to friends. Tom is not a fan of television and I salute him for that. He’s not a big fan of sports so sitting around watching a game is time wasted for him. He is a social animal and he does not like to be caged up. He is going to love being at college.

Michael is now a junior at St. Louis U High. This is the first time since he has attended school that he doesn’t have a fellow sibling attending with him. He is on his own and that will be great for him. It’s all so interesting to watch things evolve.

Meanwhile, Catherine is beginning her freshman year at Nerinx high school. She tried out for the JV softball team and made it so she’s got a new batch of friends waiting to be made. She’s hoping to get involved in theatre and hopefully, will pursue her artistic talents as well.

Chris and I have already experienced family dinners with just four of us (at least when time allows us to actually have family dinners). Two more years it’ll be Chris, myself and Catherine and before we know it, it’ll be back to just Chris and yours truly. We’ll be empty nesters (unless of course, one or two come back to roost for awhile but I somehow don’t envision that).

You never know what the future holds. I generally try to not look to much more than about two weeks out. Things can change in an instant.

So you take each day for what it is. I’m thankful and grateful for the tremendous family we have. I’m blessed to have it and I look forward to what lies ahead.

Time to get out and enjoy this beautiful day!

Not on company time

Sign ups for the St. Louis Ad Club Fall Golf Classic on Wednesday, September 12 are down.

Way down. So far down that if you play, your odds of winning a closest to the pin or longest drive prize are heavily in your favor.

It was only about 10 years ago that this event used to sell out. Golfers from different agencies would show up, ready for an afternoon on the links. It was a chance to treat your client or reward a few employees for their hard work with a fun round of golf. Vendors and suppliers to those agencies also showed up in force. It was always a great time.

That’s no longer the case. I’m definitely generalizing here, but it seems that most agencies and marketing communications firms simply have no time for golf during normal work hours. Maybe they feel that by letting some employees play a round of golf while the rest of the staff has to keep on working just isn’t fair. Maybe they’re right.

Maybe they feel that treating a client to a round of golf and spending a few hours away from work has no value. Or maybe the client can’t justify an afternoon that isn’t fully devoted to improving market share or generating sales. And all those vendors that used to play no longer seem to be playing. They were the support arm of the St. Louis ad community but as our ad community has dwindled, so has participation.

You can no longer write it off. It’s now a cost of doing business and it seems that most agencies and most vendors can’t justify that cost.

Not only is there the cost for playing, there’s also the cost of paying someone to not work for four hours. A twosome and you can double that. A foursome – sorry, there will be no Christmas bonuses this year because we let four employees play in the Ad Club Fall Golf Classic.

I wish it wasn’t this way. I wish that the St. Louis advertising and marketing communications community was absolutely thriving. I wish that membership in the Ad Club was expanding rather than contracting. But wishing won’t make it so.

Maybe the whole idea behind the Ad Club Fall Golf Classic has no meaning in this day and age. Does it contribute to the bottom line? Probably not. Is it exclusionary, slighting those in the company who don’t play golf? Possibly so. Does it do anything to improve company morale or improve client-agency relations? Possible – but if you’re going to treat a client to a round of golf, why not do it where your potential competitors aren’t in the foursome behind you?

Put it all together and you can see why signups are down. Next to the ADDYs, the Ad Club Fall Golf Classic used to be the second biggest fundraiser for the Ad Club, allowing the club to bring in guest speakers and help fund other events. It’s not anymore.

I play in my parish Men’s Club golf outing every year. It sells out every year. It’s a great chance to enjoy an afternoon away from work, be with friends and see people you don’t get to see often enough. Same basic principle as the Ad Club golf outing with one notable exception.

It’s not on company time.

So what do you think? I voiced my opinion. What’s yours?

Let’s hear how we could make the Ad Club Fall Golf Classic more interesting, more fun and above all better attended. Or at least let’s hear why you’re not playing.

And finally, if you’re interested in signing up, sponsoring a hole or simply coming out for the dinner at Far Oaks Golf Club, details can be found on the Ad Club website at:




Thank you, London

What a show the Brits put on last night to bid adieu to the Olympics.

It was a nostalgic blast from the past, integrated into the present with a high-tech array of lighting throughout the stadium and over-the-top staging that had me wondering what’s next, even when NBC told me what was coming before the commercial break.

It made me realize how much my love of music is deeply tied to our friends across the pond. Music from the Beatles, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Queen, Elton John and many others performed by many of today’s Brit stars was fun to both see and hear. I haven’t been waiting for the reunion of the Spice Girls but when they rolled onstage, I thoroughly enjoyed their performance. Spice indeed.

I think my favorite moment was Fatboy Slim at the head of a giant octopus doing his music mix thing. It made no sense. It made perfect sense.

London was the epicenter of music, its tentacles reaching out across the globe to pull us in on the celebration.

At least, that was my interpretation of it.

After two weeks of games, months of hype, and hundreds of millions spent in staging, hosting and bringing us the spectacle of the 2012 Olympics, London should be able to take the day off today. True to form, they brought the curtain down.

I’m glad I tuned in.

Even if it was on tape delay.

Experience matters

The Business section of today’s Post-Dispatch had an article titled, “The burden of experience”.

It basically outlined how difficult it is these days for those 50 and over who have been let go from their current job to find new employment.

I guess the mere fact that I’m reading the Business section of the Post-Dispatch ages me already. Much as I dislike the P-D, I still love reading the newspaper with my morning breakfast. Call me old-fashioned.

Oh, wait – that’s what this article was all about. It detailed how those who are in their 50s and looking to re-enter the job market are at a marked disadvantage. They make too much money. They are health risks. They are not as technologically adept as those who are years younger and willing to work for far less.

To all that I would say, “True, true and probably true.”

You should be making more money than someone twice your age by the time you get to 50. As we age, our bodies do begin to fall apart and we do become more of a health risk. And for those who haven’t developed their social media skills or the ability to make technology their friend, they may be at a disadvantage over their younger, more tech-skilled counterparts.

But experience does matter and it matters a lot.

In my line of business, it’s the ability to develop the big idea and then make it work across all media – and yes, that includes social media as well. It’s the ability to lead and take charge of a project and that ability comes from having been in charge of countless projects before.

I am a lifelong student of advertising. I will never stop learning. I will never stop evolving. As someone who has been in the advertising and marketing communications business for more than 30 years, I know how to develop the big idea, sell the big idea and lead others in that pursuit.

Advertising is a business of the young. Put me in a hiring mode against a 30-year old writer and agencies may opt for the younger talent. Yet I remain convinced that I can out-think, out-write and out-perform the vast majority of copywriters of any age.

When I see great work done, I don’t wonder how old the person is that created it. I want to salute that person and thank him or her for adding something positive to our over-inundated world of communications.

Many people still value experience.

I realized it was time to capitalize on that fact. That’s why I went out on my own. That’s why I am succeeding on my own.

I’m not resting on my laurels. I’m taking advantage of opportunities and I am relentlessly attacking them. I know how to deliver great results for the clients I serve.

That comes from experience. And it is not a burden.


Did you vote?

I did.

At about 4:50 this afternoon, I was the 75th person at my polling place to drop a paper ballot into the box.

I asked one of the volunteers if that was an unusually low number. Considering that the polls opened at 6 am, that was an average of less than 10 people an hour. Granted, I didn’t vote via the electronic route – there was more of a line for that and she told me they generally averaged about 4 times more on the electronic method than the traditional fill in the blank mode.

Still, it struck me as kind of sad.

While talking at dinner tonight, Chris said that primary voting turnout is generally about 10%. A quick google search more or less confirmed those numbers. A little more than 10% of Republicans show up to determine who moves on for the November decision. Democratic numbers are at about 8%.

So in general, 90% of Americans could care less who gets to run for office in November at the statewide level. Yet we complain about our local taxes, our local economy and of course, our elected officials.

Fact is, our elected officials are elected by a very small minority. Because the majority of Americans are too busy with work or too set in our ways to disturb our routines to get out early in the morning or on the way home to stop by and exercise our right to vote.

We think it doesn’t matter.

We say the political system is broke.

We, the people, have helped break it.

The November elections will be here before we know it. Until then, the surviving candidates (voted in by 8% or 10% of the population) will trash their opponent and let us know why he or she is definitely wrong for America and at the local level, wrong for Missouri or wrong for your township or just plain wrong in general. The candidate will tell you how he or she is going to change the bureaucratic mess in Washington or how he or she will fight hard on your behalf. There sure is a lot of fighting that goes on in our elected offices.

Most of that fighting though, is to stay elected, fighting to win more votes, or fighting to get more campaign funding.

So we end up with an apathetic voting public and politicians who, even if they are idealistic when they first get into office, end up jaded by the time the next election rolls around.

And more people end up just changing the channel.

Which means when I ask the question, “Did you vote?” more than likely, the answer is no.