Ricketts Wrigley Field — A Modest Proposal

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or on the South Side of Chicago, you no doubt have heard about how the owners of the Chicago Cubs baseball club want to take the most beautiful inner city ballpark in the country (yes, that includes that park in Boston) and dwarf it with a television screen the size of a Boeing 747. It is upsetting to the baseball purists, the neighbors, just about everybody — except, I think, advertisers. Ricketts sees dollar signs. And that is only fair. It’s his park, he can do with it as he pleases. He who pays the piper calls the ads.

But if you take a look at the Cubs, a team that manages to pull in the crowds without winning, I think Ricketts is missing a huge opportunity. Get rid of the team altogether! Get rid of the stadium. Just put up the largest flat screen television on earth and SHOW ADS FOR CAR DEALERS ON IT!!! Why stop with that parcel of land on Addison and Clark Street? Take over the entire north side of Chicago. I could see a Bob Rohrman ad extending from the Lincoln Park lagoon to Waukegan. Make that screen so big astronauts can see it from space!

Maybe they can even show some movies about baseball teams that win on it.

Me and Coach Parcells

I noticed future Hall of Fame football coach Bill Parcells on TV the other day and I thought, “geez, he’s looking older. But at least he’s keeping the weight off.” And I flashed back to the campaign we did together for New York’s Tri-State Cadillac Dealers. He was a little heavier back then. Coaching the Jets. But a really nice guy to work with. If you didn’t know he was a maniac football coach, a tough leader of men who could, at any moment yell out, “drop and give me 40!” and half of Fifth Avenue would obey, you’d have thought this guy was a professional TV actor. He did a lot of sponsorships in those days. He had an agent right out of Jerry McGuire, complete with bad-ass wrap around shades and slick suit.

And what these guys did was pack all of Bill’s commercial production into one week before the start of summer training camp. I remember meeting Bill at the shoot on a Monday and he went through his schedule: three commercials for Cadillac today, two for this auto parts company tomorrow, flying to California for two commercials Wednesday, and so on. Back to back commercials.

We had some radio to do, along with the TV spots. He arranged for us to walk from where we were shooting, in front of the Plaza Hotel, to a radio studio next door and record over lunch. I thought, this is going to be a disaster. We are sunk. We had TWELVE COMMERCIALS to record. In an hour. And we’d been shooting a TV commercial since 5 that morning, and would be shooting another into the night after the lunch break. I was worried. This was going to SUCK!!!

Walking to the studio, I said to Parcells, “You sure you want to do all TWELVE? We can cut it down to three.”

Parcells said, “No problem,” and went back to joking.

Who was I to argue? And when he went into the booth, HE DID IT! He knocked them out perfectly. In one take. Masterful. As he left the booth, 47 minutes later, I gushed about what a great job he did.

He paused, looked at me, and said, in total seriousness, “Oh, that was nothing, yesterday I did 30 in an hour.”

And he walked away chatting and laughing with his agent.

My beef with Mad Men — too much Mad, not enough Ad.

Ever since it started what seems like back in the 60’s now, I’ve been a wary fan of Mad Men. The truth is, every copywriter and creative director in the business is always working on “the book,” the tome that will rip the covers off the business and tell it all like it is. How many times over my years have I heard someone say “save that for the book.” And that book will never be written. It’s just too weird. And too “inside.”

So it’s no surprise that it took TV Writer Matt Weiner to do the book — albeit a cable TV show. And here perhaps is the problem. At least for me. Not that he doesn’t get the characters right — I guess — but what I’m missing is the real drama.

How much white space in the ad?
Have we been forced to turn our ad into a camel?
Are there three too many words in the headline?
Should we put the ‘smile’ shot before the shot of the car, or after?
Why does that guy drink Jack Daniels from a little paper cup he steals from the water fountain — all the time?
What is the nature of hackdom?

Real questions of interest. To me, an ad geek I admit. So, someday, when I’m stranded on a desert island with a Netflix hookup, I’ll watch all 8 billion hours of Mad Men — maybe there will be two or three minutes of real drama (how could the client buy that????) and lots of stuff about clothes and smoking clove cigarettes etc.

Till then, I’ll keep working on ‘the book.’

Mayhem — The Leo Burnett ‘Critter’ as anti-critter…

He’s there. Right alongside the Pillsbury Doughboy and The Jolly Green Giant and Tony the Tiger and Charley the Tuna. That snarly, bearded, with little piece of band-aid tape above his eye purveyor of all that is wrong with the world known as “Mayhem,” spokescritter for good ole’ Allstate insurance. Espousing all the little things that go wrong, this critter has taken his proud place among the greatest that the Leo Burnett agency has ever created. How do I know? I heard him ripped off this morning. On the radio. Some health company was touting some undecipherable disease and they gave that disease a persona just like Mayhem. But not as good. By a longshot. But still, boxed into a corner, the agency creatives reverted to the ultimate sign of someone having come up with a “big” idea. They ripped it off. (I could almost hear the cash registers ch-chinging at the Allstate company!) Another winner for Leo. And I thought, would Leo himself have approved of this downtrodden anarchistic force of evil as a spokes-critter? I do believe he would have. See, he liked the sounds of ch-chinging too.

Leo does it again.