Saturday, April 25, 2009

Find a good profreader (er, PROOFreader)

It's a lost art.

In these days of emoticons, texting, abbreviations, and lack of capitalization (e e cummings rolls in his grave), the art of proofreading is underappreciated and dying.

We send you to this link for a sad, sad example.


Use your spelcheck (er, spellcheck), people.

Tip of the cap to TG for the original posting.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pay the big people, screw the little people

Decorum prohibits us from naming them, but a certain mid-Atlantic investment firm's management team should be ashamed of themselves.

On Tuesday, the firm, once known for its outstanding performance and its collegial, almost familial environment, laid off nearly 300 employees. This isn’t, in and of itself, surprising, as many companies have had to reduce workforce by about 10 percent due to the current economic environment. It probably is in the best long-term interests of its shareholders.

Consider, though, that the firm did this after paying over $25 million in bonuses and stock options to its top five executives (as reported in their most recent proxy statement). This in spite of a 20+ percent drop in earnings per share, a 30+ percent drop in assets under management, and a 40+ percent drop in the firm’s stock price.

The firm’s flagship fund – run by its Chairman and Chief Invetment Officer, who was paid $6.5 million in salary, bonus, and stock options -- is down 40+ percent in the past year, and its compound returns are negative for one, three and five years.

Certainly, most of these results are a consequence of market factors that are beyond management’s control. However, management team exceptionally well compensated for the firm’s performance when they enjoyed the benefits of a bull market.

That they would continue to pay themselves millions and fire their loyal colleagues during a bear market when the company is performing poorly is disappointing beyond words.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

There once was a man...who longed for a simpler time

At the end of the day I'll confess
That this socialist stuff is a mess
How I long for the years
When our worst beltway fears
Were how Bill Clinton stained the blue dress.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Axing about asterixes

We visited with one of our most edjumacated friends recently and were surprised, nay, horrified to hear said friend refer to the little star thingy that sits atop the number eight on a standard QWERTY keyboard as an "asterix."

It is, of course, an "asterisk," and the word is pronounced not with an "ix" sound at the end, but with an "isk" sound. Correctly pronounced, that is.

Since then, we've taken note of a variety of "isks" being pronounced as "ixes," and we wonder what the heck is going on here.

We have heard a friend talk about Houdini as an excape artist. He can't excape the notion that it's pronounced "escape," just like it's spelled.

How about another grim misuse, the full pronunciation of the Latin et cetera (often abbreviated "etc.") mangled as "excetera?"

Another blow stricken for illiteracy and idiocy. We axe you, doesn't this deserve today's idiot flag?

Er, ask, that is.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Pissed about POTUS?

A few years ago, one William Jefferson Clinton was invited to give the commencement speech at our alma mater.

Never mind that the University traditionally didn't even have a commencement speaker. The University was appropriately grateful for the presence of the duly elected President of the United States, the leader of the free world, the commander-in-chief, and the primary perjurer. They changed their schedule to accommodate him. It was the right thing to do.

Our personal distaste for President Clampett notwithstanding, we defended his presence and his receipt of an honorary doctorate (presumably of gynecology) vehemently. He won the election fair and square, and our dislike of the man and his policies notwithstanding, he was the major domo and consequently had earned and deserved our respect.

We digress to remind the crowd that just because you disagreed with W didn't make him dumb or you smart. He, too, was the twice duly elected POTUS, and while he lacked humility and intellectual curiosity, we suggest that his Yale undergrad and Harvard Business School degrees, along with his business success (admittedly catalyzed by grandpa's oil dough) acquit him of the allegations of stupidity. Please people.

In fact, we refer you to F. Scott Fitzgerald's thoughs on intelligence, to wit: "The test of a first rate intellect is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in one's mind and still retain the ability to function."

Can it really be that The University of Notre Dame -- whose mission statement represents it as "a place of teaching and research, of scholarship and publication, of service and community," is having second thoughts about having the celebrity President speak at their commencement because of his views on abortion rights?

Is the University community really so small minded that, his academic and political qualifications notwithstanding, it will object so vehemently to one of his thoughts that it would consider telling him "no thank you?"

It's not like he's going to give a speech to try to change people's minds on that topic. He's more likely to offer platitudes on growing up and making the world a better place -- platitudes, incidentally, that the undergrads and grads might benefit from hearing.

Isn't censorship supposed to be the practice of the closed minded conservatives? Can it really be consistent with the values of an institution committed to academic inquiry?

We live in the midwest, so we know that ND is more than the lunkheads who play for Charlie Weis on the gridiron.

Isn't it?

Thought police ban ILVTOFU license plate

Vegan Kelley Coffman-Lee has a legitimate beef -- so to speak -- with the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles.

Ms. Coffman-Lee is your almost typical caricature of a Colorado-living, hyphenated-name-having, feminist-and-liberal-bumper-sticker-sporting, wanting-to-tell-everyone-else-how-she-can-live-your-life-better-than-you, vegetarian-soccer-mom.

She's upset that the DMV won't let her sport a vanity license plate of her liking, specifically ILVTOFU.

If you don't believe me, have a look at the CNN video, although in fairness we don't know what sport she has her legging-and-boot-wearing daughter playing.

We're only surprised that she doesn't drive a Prius, or maybe a Subaru Outback.

Since it is our self-appointed duty to cast penalty flags on idiocy, we'd like to point out an important irony here.

Ms. Coffman-Lee is upset -- appropriately -- that the DMV rejected her application because of the alternate meaning that one could interpret from ILVTOFU. Big brother thought that could offend someone's sense of decency.

We have to admit that we see her side of things.

Now let's juxtapose their decision with her (scarcely surprising) comment that "I believe more people should adopt a vegetarian lifestyle."

Apparently, it's ok for her to tell other people what to think and how to live, but not for the CO DMV.

As for us, though, we think that anyone who says that they LVTOFU should be entitled to tell the world. One can enjoy TOFU in a wide variety of ways, and we applaud anyone's decision to do so as often as possible, and with as much enthusiasm as they can bring to the table.

Coming next: our thoughts on The University of Notre Dame and the preposterous controversy about Barack Obama -- the leader of the free world and the duly elected President of these Great United States -- agreeing to speak at their graduation. Suffice it to say that ND is revealing itself as the football powerhouse that it is...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

More on (moron?) agencies -- the worlds funniest IT policy

This one left us with damp trousers.

A major international agency who shall go nameless published IT guidelines not long ago.

Our correspondent, who shall also remain anonymous, had this to say: "It isn't so much bad grammar and usage as a generalized inability to make sense. I'm sure I am the only person who read it, which is a shame because it's marvelous in its way."

Let's make sure a lot of us read it now.

We invite you to revel in these gems from a major global firm, one of whose ostensible skills is the ability to communicate clearly and unambiguously.

The policy is in italics, our correspondent's keen observations are in standar type:

“Throughout the Agency network, streaming of music is not allowed. Streaming of music includes but is not limited to iTunes, Real Player and Music Match.”

The company puts a copy of iTunes on every computer they issue to employees. Apparently, you’re just not supposed to download anything.

“Listen to personal copyright music and/or DVD’s as long as the files and/or data on those CD’s or DVD’s are not transferred to any Agency computer resource;”

So you’re not only to avoid downloading anything with the copy of iTunes the company gives you, you’re also not supposed to load in your own music. I guess they hand out copies of iTunes so their employees look “with it.” They probably try to entrap people with that “Meet Your Fellow Employee” profile question, “What’s on your iTunes?”

“DON’T: Eat or drink around the keyboard or computer.”

Of course, people in an advertising agency consume breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and coffee with one hand on the keyboard. As I’m sure they do in the White House and Google’s server farm and everywhere else people use computers except maybe missile silos.

“The use of flash devices (also called removable media) may only be used with the express permission of both the IT Manager and the CFO.”

Both, okay? I pointed this rule out to the CFO, and he looked frightened and shouted, “You have my permission!! You have my permission!!”

Then there’s this helpful description of what email is for:

“The e-mail system, like the phone system, helps with communications both internally (i.e., with Agency employees) and externally (i.e., with clients, vendors and media).”

I was pretty sure it was to help with communication. I’m glad to know for certain.

And to finally get some clarification on which people are internal and which are external. And there are some special people to avoid harassing:

[Don’t] “Initiate or forward Harassing, pornographic or indecent messages as they are prohibited. (This includes but is not limited to initiating or forwarding to agency or non-agency individuals)”

At first, “includes but is not limited to” agency or non-agency individuals seems to mean that it includes a third group, people who are neither with the agency nor not with the agency. They live in other quantum states that we can’t see, but can forward emails to.

When you keep working on it, though, you see that the “or” means you may be allowed to send indecent messages to some people, it just doesn’t say whom. Trial and error would be the only way to find out.


We've seen bad writing from lots of departments of lots of companies, but this is particularly excellent bad writing.

Would that it were intentional.

We cast an Idiot Flag at the agency and its IT department. How we long for, for the days when internal communication was clear...and when agency communications had intentionally humorous constructions.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

North Korea -- angry letters or angry cruise missiles?

Team America: World Police, the puppet movie send-up of the US's response to terrorism in the world was derided as sophomoric and filthy.

It was, which is why we found it so funny.

It was also a frightening, cold, sober look at the reality of how United Nations diplomacy so often doesn't work. Recall this exchange between Hans Blix, the famous UN weapons inspector, and Kim Jong Il, the manipulative psycho who runs North Korea:

Kim Jong Il: Hans Brix? Oh no! Oh, herro. Great to see you again, Hans!
Hans Blix: Mr. Il, I was supposed to be allowed to inspect your palace today, but your guards won't let me enter certain areas.
Kim Jong Il: Hans, Hans, Hans! We've been frew this a dozen times. I don't have any weapons of mass destwuction, OK Hans?
Hans Blix: Then let me look around, so I can ease the UN's collective mind. I'm sorry, but the UN must be firm with you. Let me in, or else.
Kim Jong Il: Or else what?
Hans Blix: Or else we will be very angry with you... and we will write you a letter, telling you how angry we are.

Kim then feeds Blix to some carnivorous fish and sings a touching ballad about how "ronery" (lonely) he is. The South Park guys hit it out of the ballpark in our opinion.

On Sunday, North Korea launched what they claimed was a satellite, but what the rest of the world that doesn't buy their ridiculous propaganda (i.e., Kim's ability to hit several holes in one each time he plays a round of golf) knows was an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The United Nations Keystone Kops' subsequent inability to come to a consensus on how to respond (other than "continuing discussions") should make our collective blood run cold.

They can't even agree to write (another) angry letter, or to send the self congratulatory -- and sad loose cannon, in our book -- President Jimmy Carter over to negotiate (another) end to Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions. Recall that Carter visited in 1994, cut a deal, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize thereafter, adding him to a list of distinguished incompetents that includes Koffi Annan and Yasser Arafat.

The US gets in enough international trouble when it saves the world from psychotic, violent dictators when it has the support of the international community and its collective wisdom.

Who knows what will happen if we have to act alone when we don't have their support? Let's get the UN working on their angry letter lest the US Navy be required to work on some angry cruise missiles.

We sell. Or else... and JWT learns the hard way

A colleague of ours noted the closing of JWT's Chicago office with this comment: "It's a sad day for advertising and for agencies in general."

For those of you who aren't aware, JWT, formerly J. Walter Thompson, is one of the formerly great advertising agencies of the 20th century, and it announced on Friday that its Chicago office, a shadow of its once great self, would be shuttered in the near future, with their clients being afforded the "opportunity" to work with the New York office where the strategy of ruining the agency is masterminded.

A sad day? We disagree. The industry in general, and JWT in particular, is reaping what they have sown. The industry failed to follow its own advice or to stand for the values and business goals it espoused, to wit:
  • Building strong brands: J. Walter Thompson becomes JWT. Ogilvy & Mather becomes Ogilvy. BBDO Chicago becomes "Energy." Needham Harper & Steers and countless others go away entirely. Agency networks create "conflict agencies" with new names -- effectively admitting that their brands are meaningless, and rendering the differentiation between and among the original agencies irrelevant.
  • Entitling clients to charge a premium price for an otherwise parity product: The industry ate itself with a de facto price war that followed the M&A boom of the 1980s and 1990s, so anxious to find or keep new business (and service its debt) that it devalued its own product and destroyed its own economic model.
  • Hiring smart people who could help the client's business: The upshot of the price war was an end to the ability to attract or retain smart people. The agencies of today have a group of retreads at the top and a group of bouncy 25 year-olds who "like to work with people" working for them. The era of David Ogilvy's "gentlemen with brains" is long past.
  • Keeping up with new trends: Big agencies today are still wed to :30 and :15 television and full page spread print. They are fabulously weak in emerging media, web and interactive, and the other media trends that are rendering television and magazines (and especially newspapers) largely obsolete. They continue to focus on what they know rather than what their clients want and need.
Have a look at Ogilvy & Mather, in our opinion the best of the old line agencies (full disclosure: we worked there for seven years) and what it stood for and examine where they are today. Had they stuck to "We sell. Or else." as a real philosophy, they'd be the biggest, most successful, and most relevant agency in the world right now. They'd have evolved into a powerhouse of sales generation, measurement and accountability -- which is precisely what Chief Marketing Officers require of their partners.

Ogilvy's website has no traces of the old line Ogilvy beyond their trademark red. No cash register. No commitment to sales. In fact, their What We Do section notes "We work not for ourselves, not for the company, not even for the client. We work for Brands."


Agencies work for clients who need profitable sales to survive. Strong brands are necessary but not sufficient. Ogilvy used to stand for making the cash register ring. Their mandate should be building brands and SELLING PRODUCT. Someone forgot about that part.

The self-indulgent "creative" shitheads at the top have forgotten that advertising is about commerce, not art, and have rendered most of the old line agencies, once giants, shadows of themselves, and likely on the same path as JWT Chicago.

Mismanaged businesses and industries don't deserve to survive. No tears should be shed for stupidity, intellectual sloppiness, and the fallout thereof.

"We sell. Or else." was a brilliant reminder of what agencies should stand for. We see now what "Or else." really means.