In praise of TOKY

The 53rd Communication Arts Advertising Annual arrived in my mailbox yesterday.

I love to see great work, so opening the cardboard mailer that holds each CA is always a treat. When it’s the Ad Annual, it’s like opening the Christmas present that you weren’t sure what exactly was in it but could hardly wait to get your hands on it to find out.

Last night, I quickly devoured its contents. For those of you who don’t know, Communication Arts comes out five times a year and features the best work being done in advertising, design, interactive, photography and illustration.

The Ad Annual has changed through the years. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, each annual was packed with magazine and newspaper ads, outdoor boards, as well as scripts for radio and key frames for TV commercials. These days, the Ad Annual has gotten a lot smaller but the work is still outstanding.

This marks the 33rd consecutive year that I’ve had nothing in it and that depresses me each year but I always vow that next year will be the year. I’ve actually only had a grand total of four entries that I ever considered CA-worthy. None of them made it.

So I always peruse the Annual to see if any other St. Louis agencies had anything in it. To my knowledge, there are none – though I did see a fantastic campaign created by Barkley out of Kansas City with Paul Behnen as the Executive Creative Director. Paul went to St. Louis U High, graduated a year below me and he recently moved to Barkley after spending many years in New York. I also noticed that Claude Shade showed up as a photographer for a Goodby Silverstein campaign. Claude was an awesome art director at TBWA back when they were doing great stuff here in St. Louis.

Okay, but I thought this was titled, “In praise of TOKY”.

It is. Because as I was devouring all of the contents of the Ad Annual portion of CA, I completely missed the spotlight portion that they do each edition highlighting some hot ad or design firm.

So tonight as I was getting ready to revisit all the ad work again, I noticed four letters on the cover that leaped out at me. TOKY.

I’ve know Eric Thoelke since about 1985 or so. We were both board members on the Not Just An Art Directors’ Club and Eric and I worked on a few mailers for the club together.

I have always had the highest regard for Eric and he’s been the guiding force (backed by his wife and business partner, Mary) in making his shop a truly special place in St. Louis that does absolutely amazing work for a very interesting client mix. Communication Arts devoted 10 pages to profiling the company and the work they do.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Reading the article inspired me. Eric talked about the early days and how much hard work he had to put in to get things rolling. To quote him via CA, “When you get it going, it’s like pushing a boulder, all of a sudden you turn around and the boulder starts to get some momentum. Pretty soon, the boulder is chasing you down the hill instead of you pushing it. If you’re lucky, you get to hop on the boulder and kind of run on top of it for a while, while it’s moving.”

It’s moving and it’s picking up even more momentum.

Keep it going, Eric and congrats to each and every employee of Toky Design.

Myself, I’ve got a boulder that I’m trying to push.

Nelly in da house

“In the club on the late night, feeling right …”

You got that right, Nelly. Somehow, I knew you were going to be the featured performer last night and for that, a huge thank you goes out to CoolFire Media for putting on your 10th annual customer appreciation/Freakfest/epic pre-Halloween party last night at Plush.

My ears are still ringing and my head is still spinning from the wild assortment of costumes and humanity on display mixed with two extremely fun and funky female mixmasters followed by an amazing dose of Nelly up close and definitely in your face.

This party attracts the St. Louis creative community. And the St. Louis creative community doesn’t disappoint – the costumes on display are a true sight to see. Me? I wimped out by wearing my old karate ghi from my black belt days combined with a curly black ‘fro wig that remained in my hands because it got soaked by the rain coming in and had a smell that I preferred to keep away from my nose.

Others weren’t nearly so boring in their costume choices though I must admit I was slightly disappointed with the male winner and the couples winner in the costume contest.

An oversized Honey Boo Boo totally deserved the female first place award. As for the males, I had it down to Gaybraham Lincoln, a very dead looking Osama bin Laden and my personal favorite, the guy with half his brain showing with some kind of robotic, hideous looking female zombie wrapped around his mid section who could contort her head and seemingly scream at you. Words don’t quite do it justice.

For the couples contest, Mary Poppins and her chimney sweeper boyfriend took the prize though I would have opted for the stupidity and low tech nature of the robot box people.

None of that really matters, though. It’s just a cool experience put on by CoolFire Media to see so many in the St. Louis advertising, design, interactive and production community come out in force.

When you’re dressed in costume, things always seem to be a little wilder, a little funnier and definitely a whole lot funkier. Toss in a few thousand free Bud Lights, Bud Selects and Buds and then add Nelly to the equation – electric.

As I looked around, I realized I was at the higher end of the age bracket. Didn’t matter.

Thanks CoolFire and Nelly for making me young again – if only for a night.

See you next year!


S^2C makes a difference

That’s supposed to be the Stand Up To Cancer symbol but I’m not sure where the up arrow is on my mac.

Three days ago, I was ready to throw things at our flat screen TV during the playoffs. It wasn’t just due to the Cardinals woeful, final three-game performance, either.

It seemed that every commercial break we were being subjected to either the Galaxy S III commercial where we hear the dumbfounded comments of the wannabe’s waiting in line for their new iPhone or the commercial starring 9-year old cancer survivor, Justin, trying to hit a baseball against fellow cancer survivor Jon Lester in a co-sponsored spot for Stand Up To Cancer on behalf of MasterCard and MLB.

The first time I saw that commercial I wanted to personally smack the writer upside his or her head. It has to be one of the most stereotypical commercials I’ve ever seen. Bald little boy in a baseball cap gets ready to swing a bat. He’s urged on by his sister, his friends and family. Major league star is ready to pitch. Justin swings and misses. Try again, Justin, you can do it.

Then lo and behold, he hits the ball – in epic slow motion fashion. The music swells. Justin triumphs.

I know it’s a horrible thing to pan a commercial about a child who overcame cancer. But about the fourteenth time I saw the commercial, I couldn’t stand it anymore and made a rude comment about it. I knew it was wrong but I just couldn’t stand seeing the commercial again and again and again. Maybe it’s the media buyer’s fault.

But last night was different. Yes, the commercial ran once again. Gratefully, there was a new commercial ┬áthat debuted as well. That wasn’t the difference maker, though. Thanks to the power of integrated marketing, the Stand Up To Cancer campaign truly made a big impact last night and now I’d like to commend the agency behind that effort.

They distributed I Stand Up For _______ signs to everyone in the stadium as well as to Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. Everyone filled in a name of someone they know that has been affected by this dreadful disease. When the commercial break after what might have been the fifth inning was over, they cut to the stands and everyone was holding up their signs. Joe and Tim both commented on the names they had filled in and then they cut back to more people in the stands with their messages. One read, “I Stand Up For Me” and it was clear that she was a recent cancer survivor.

They even cut to a group down on the field and yes, there was Justin.

I was moved by the moment and it made me aware of the power of persuasion that advertising can inherently create.

The Justin commercial did nothing for me. But seeing an entire stadium filled with personal messages of why you should stand up and support the fight to find a cure for cancer certainly did.

Kudos to the creators and yes, I Stand Up For Cancer.

What will you be watching?

The direction our country takes in the coming months may be on the line tonight as the last presidential debate takes place. Unfortunately, most St. Louisans will probably only hear sound bytes or read about it on websites or in tomorrow morning’s paper as Game 7 of the NLCS gets underway about 50 minutes before the first, “That’s not true” is spoken.

Meanwhile, Monday Night Football features a good clash between the Bears and the Lions that may pull more viewers away from the big debate.

On a national scale, I don’t know what percentage of Americans have been tuning in to the debates – but I know those numbers are going to take a major hit in the St. Louis metro area and on the West Coast.

If tonight’s Cards-Giants game is anywhere close around the 8 o’clock hour, many Americans might choose to see the two teams battle it out versus the two presidential contenders trading barbs. There won’t be as many stare downs or circling the opponent tonight, either, as both Mit and Barack will be seated at a table with the moderator in-between the two.

Batter vs. pitcher has the potential to be a lot more compelling.

It’s a shame the debate couldn’t have taken place tomorrow night. There would be no competing baseball or football and with the NHL season on ice, there would have been virtually no sports contests to lure Americans away from tuning in. The NBA is in pre-season mode and the WNBA wrapped up last night – (in case you didn’t know).

But that’s not going to happen and the show must go on.

Same with the games. I know that tonight I’m going to be a Bird watcher and I’m planning on continuing that watching on Wednesday. Between commercial breaks, I might flip over to MNF.

So tonight’s presidential debate won’t have much influence on my voting in November.

Does that make me a bad citizen?

Nah, just a normal one.

Go Cardinals!


You could see this one coming

All  signs pointed to a game five win. Our relievers were rested, we had just scored 8 runs the night before without needing a home run. Carlos was back in the lineup. The fans were pumped. The town was ready to go Cardinals red once again and hang that World Series bunting at Busch.

But we all forgot that this year’s edition of the Redbirds never does things the easy way. The announcers all said that Mike Matheny would be treating this game like a game 7, ready to pull Lance Lynn at the slightest sign of trouble.

Lance didn’t make it through four innings last time out. In fact, tonight’s start was eerily similar to his last one. He was striking out batters. He had command of his pitches. It seemed like when the Cardinals didn’t manage to get one across in the first inning that we’d still be all right. Zito’s control was off. He was missing high and wide.

But Cardinals batters were generous tonight. They were swinging at balls. And when we had two on and nobody out, that was the first indication.

There would be no celebrating tonight.

The leadoff hit in the fourth was Matheny’s first sign that trouble was looming. But that was just a little lead-off hit, no time to panic. When Lynn couldn’t find the strike zone and then let Sandoval get a clean hit to put two on and nobody out, that was sign number two.

Somebody should have been warming up. All those Cardinals relievers who were ready for an extended outing were sitting idly by. Then came the hit back to Lance and the nobody covering at second play.

A run scored. It was just one run at the time.

Maybe Matheny got fooled by Lynn’s resolve when the next batter popped out. But when Blanco walked on five pitches that should have been it. Lance should have been pulled.

He wasn’t. By the time he was, the damage was done and the Cardinals were down 4-0.

What followed was more bad breaks and I must admit some great fielding plays by the Giants. Then more swinging at balls and not swinging at pitches right down central.

This was not the Cardinals night.

That’s to be expected.

All along, I thought this series would go seven games. I still firmly believe that the Cardinals will prevail. This team has amazing resolve.

I hope they win it in six.

But for anyone thinking that tonight would be the night, apparently, you haven’t been following this team all season long.

Go get ’em Redbirds. Bring home a National League Championship and we’ll see you on Wednesday.

No real winners in last night’s debate

I tuned in last night to the big presidential debate, eager to hear what President Obama and Governor Romney had to say about the state of our economy. I sat through the whole affair, wondering at times if perhaps a wrestling takedown move was not far away or at least a shove of some sorts.

There was lots of “That’s not true.” Lots of interjecting and interrupting. Lots of staredowns and refusing to even look at the opponent while he was badgering away.

I felt like they were randomly tossing around trillions of dollars with no real regard for what any of those trillions mean to our economy. Questions that were asked from the audience were often not answered at all. Instead, we were given generalities and personal recollections that had only the vaguest of connections to the query.

It’s almost as if we were watching two properly raised school boys who knew that they couldn’t actually settle things by duking it out but instead had to settle for steely-eyed glares and interruptions combined with repeated shaking of the head and smirking at the idiocy of the comments they were being forced to listen to from their opponent.

Unfortunately, the American public had to listen as well. I imagine many TV sets were switched to another channel, perhaps tuning in to the Yankees demise or better yet, turning the TV off entirely.

In the end, last night’s debate reinforced my overall disappointment with American politics. There is so much he-said, she-said, so much negativity, so little actual ideas put forth that at times it seems like it really doesn’t matter who is in charge.

But I know it does matter.

The President is not a mere figurehead like the Queen of England. The President makes hard decisions on domestic and foreign policy that ultimately affects us all.

I just wish there was a better way of knowing what’s behind Door Number One or Door Number Two.

What do you think?

The privilege of being a St. Louisan

I woke up early this morning, still re-living the ninth inning of last night’s improbable, spectacular, repeat Jack Buck’s famous line of, “I don’t believe what I just saw”, Cardinals victory.

One of my son’s best friends was asleep on our couch, the MLB Network was still on, replaying the highlights from the greatest come-from-behind victory in the history of postseason baseball elimination games.

I went out to get the morning paper, eager to devour every word that had been written, but the game didn’t finish until about 11:30 and the champagne celebration didn’t get underway until close to 11:45. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch was on deadline so there were no magical words to read from Bernie.

Baseball is just a game.

But it’s so much more than that, especially if you grow up in St. Louis. It’s a part of your life.

When I was a kid, my grandpa always had the Cardinals games on the radio. That’s what grandpas did in my mind. I had an aunt who was a nun, and she was the most ardent Cardinals fan I knew, able to talk strategy and fill me in on Julian Javier’s struggles at the plate. Both my parents loved the Cardinals and passed that love on to their kids. I went to bed many a night with a transistor radio playing next to me, falling asleep to Jack Buck’s voice when the Cardinals were on a west coast swing.

Now, my kids share in that deep love of Cardinals baseball. The Cardinals tradition has been passed on and they are experiencing what it’s like to live in the greatest baseball city in America.

It is a privilege.

Cardinals nation spans the country. Last night on KMOX, there were call ins and tweets from fans in Oregon, Massachusetts, throughout the South and from just about anywhere where the nighttime signal of KMOX can reach on a clear October night.

But we here in St. Louis are the epicenter of Redbirds euphoria.

Enjoy every second of it.

These are memories that can last a lifetime.

I miss the Big 12

Alabama is visiting Faurot Field this weekend and it’s not going to be pretty.

This is a football team whose average margin of victory is more than 30 points. They’re playing a Tigers team (in those fancy new uniforms that seem like they’re trying way too hard) that is already beat up and missing several key players.

James Franklin picked a good weekend to be injured. I honestly don’t think he was ready to come back when he did and probably the pounding he suffered in that opening loss to Georgia has done some long-lasting damage. He certainly hasn’t been the same this year as he was last and that’s not a good thing for our inaugural SEC season.

I’m sorry, but the state of Missouri does not worship at the altar of college football – at least not like some of these southern teams do where fans pledge their allegiance at an early age and then live and breathe college football from the first Spring practice right up to the last play of the Championship game (which generally features an SEC team).

Georgia whooped us. South Carolina embarrassed us. Vanderbilt, yes Vandy, took it to us on our own turf. That is a very rude slap in the face. It’s like losing to Iowa State in a down year in football. Maybe even worse.

I admit, schools like Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Texas A&M and Texas Tech didn’t exactly get my heart racing when we faced them. But I knew that most times, we at least had a fighting chance.

Now we’re in a football powerhouse and we’ve joined the other bottom feeders who will have to try and gain victories over each other to get in the ‘W’ column. I think we can beat Kentucky. But when we do, when basketball season comes around you know they’ll be looking for payback.

All the glitz and glamour of the SEC doesn’t shine so brightly when you’re getting the living daylights beat out of you. Maybe this is just a rebuilding year, a springboard to future greatness.

If it is, we’re going to have to start feeding our boys a lot more meat and potatoes so that we’ve got a few 300-pounders of our own to push back.

Good luck this weekend, Tigers and good luck to the fans who make the trek to Columbia.

You’re all going to need it.

Don’t blame the Cardinals

The Cardinals didn’t drop the ball.

Okay, they definitely misplayed it but they didn’t drop it.

When shortstop Pete Kozma very strangely backed off catching the ball hit into mid left field, thinking that Matt Holliday would take charge, it resulted in one of the worst blown calls I’ve ever seen in baseball.

For once, the call went the Cardinals way. You could say that Atlanta got Denkingered.

And perhaps they did. Still, Atlanta literally threw that game away. Chipper Jones started it all with his wild throw into center field that resulted in a 3-run inning. Dan Uggla added to the festivities with a wild toss that would have you shaking your head even if it was a little leaguer making the throw.

More carnage resulted.

Then the fans did their part by tossing bottles, cans, trash and a few of those dreadful foam tomahawks onto the field, causing a major delay and assuring that Jason Motte would come in to replace a somewhat shaky Mitchell Boggs.

Add in the Braves extreme lack of timely hitting and the only one the Braves can really blame for the loss is themselves. Sure, they’ll talk about what would have been and could have been with a bases loaded one-out situation. But who’s to say the next batter up wouldn’t have grounded into an inning-ending double play? That’s every bit as plausible as a grand slam or a ground rule double or passed ball or who knows what. Because we’ll never know.

That’s sports. That’s life. Bad calls happen. You could say there should be replays to decide key plays and maybe someday we’ll have them. Maybe this game will be the deciding factor in why we should. But for now, we don’t and the Cardinals play on.

Some say the Cardinals shouldn’t be here at all. Hey, they didn’t invent this silly play-in game.

Some say it should be a three-game series to decide who has the right to play next. Maybe it will be – that’s more revenue and TV time, right? And some say it’s unfair that the Cardinals now have two home games to start the next round of playoffs. Maybe it is and I think that will be addressed next year. But for now, it’s Adam Wainwright taking the mound in the late afternoon shadows of Busch Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

I love it.

And I am absolutely thrilled that I won’t have to see another stupid tomahawk chop from those graceful fans of Atlanta until next year.

Go Cardinals!

Debates are a lot like advertising

This week’s presidential debate is still fresh in my mind.

Spin control is now in day two and the respective candidates are using their sound bites to dig back at each other. Poor Big Bird doesn’t know what hit him and I heard this morning that Elmo has now been brought into the fray.

When it’s all said and done, I can’t help but think how these presidential debates are all so similar to advertising. The candidates are totally packaged, prepped and prepared for their moment before the camera. It’s essentially a 93-minute infomercial – that’s often lacking in true information.

What the viewer sees isn’t always reality. Much like advertising.

What we’re told isn’t always the truth. Much like advertising.

And just like advertising, the debates now live far beyond the airwaves.

Social media grabs onto all that was said and done and it’s all analyzed, scrutinized, dissected, evaluated, turned into the joke of the day and then re-spun and re-visited by expert analysts, consultants and Mr. John Q. Public.

The best advertising these days carries on a conversation with the consumer. It needs to connect. Many said that for the first time, Mit Romney connected – and that Barrack completely missed that connection.

This was just the first of several debates that are coming our way and I hope that Americans tune in with Super Bowl-like numbers for the next few.

Ad campaigns. Presidential campaigns.

Let the buyer beware.