Archives For author

When you see an aging building or a rusted bridge, you are seeing nature and man working together.  If you paint over a building, there is no more magic to that building.  But if it is allowed to age, then man has built it and nature has added to it—it’s so organic.

–David Lynch,
Catching the Big Fish

In 2005 I lived in the Statler Arms building on East 12th Street and Euclid Avenue in Downtown Cleveland.  The Statler Arms was formerly the Statler Hotel, which also used to have a radio station on its top floor.  My great-grandfather worked as an engineer at that radio station, in the same building where I lived decades later.

Downtown Cleveland in 2005 didn’t look nearly like it does today.  East 4th Street was under construction.  The House of Blues had just moved in but few people knew it yet.  There was no casino.  LeBron was just breaking in with the Cavs.  Heck, Constantino’s market wasn’t open yet, so if you wanted groceries you’d have to drive out to the suburbs.  After 6pm downtown became ghost town, and there was very little to do.

Of course today the story is much different.  Cleveland looks to be entering another possible renaissance and downtown is booming.  Or starting to boom.  But the path to renaissance isn’t as clear-cut as we’d like it to be.

Another great-grandfather of mine had to flee rural Mississippi to try his luck at finding fortune up north, and ended up in Cleveland for one last roll of the dice.  Over time, his hard work paid off and he ended up dying a millionaire in the dining room of the Cleveland Yacht Club: a far greater success than even he could have ever imagined.

When I used to live downtown, I’d occasionally ride my bike over to my great grandfather’s old factory in the Flats.  The plant was closed but the building still remained.  In the parking lot you could see a faded, barely-legible sign for “Scottish Tool & Die Parking Only”, and it brought me comfort to see this link with the past still standing.  One day, I pledged, I’d buy that building for whatever company I ended up running.

Then last year, in a bout of curiosity, I figured I’d check in on the old building.  I went on Google Maps and was shocked to see that it had been torn down.  Further investigation told me that not only had my great grandfather’s building been demolished, but it was razed in favor of the construction of a “Larry Flint’s Hustler Club”.

I was floored.

Of course things change and life goes on.  Of course cities grow and shrink and people move in and people move out and people move on.  Time moves in one direction, but our actions can lead us down any number of paths, for better or worse.

Granted, Cleveland today is in a better place than it was seven years ago—but not everywhere.  It’s up to us to figure out which direction we want to see our fine city go and fight like hell to keep it on the right track.  Places like Brokaw are doing it.  Places like Greenhouse Tavern are doing it.  Places like Dredgers Union were doing it, but sadly didn’t make it.

So whether we want a Cleveland full of rehabbed historical buildings and independent businesses or vacant storefronts and Larry Flint’s Hustler Clubs is up to the people of Cleveland.  Let’s choose wisely.

I love you, CLE.  See you again soon.

Here’s hoping for nothing but the best of times.

Advertisements

It seems advertising has gone from straightforward, media-driven jib-jab to a cunning, amorphous entertainment of sorts.  What once was a slap-over-the-head “BUY THIS NOW!” message has transformed into a gentle, suggestive whisper in the ear.

The Old:

Floating Head

And yes, disembodied heads were nearly mandatory back then.

The New:

Epic Guy

Head now firmly attached.  And angry!

I’ll explain, but first let’s back things up.

Cut to my local grocery store in suburban Cleveland.

Every time I walk through the front doors, I see two massive endcaps: one for Great Lakes Brewing Company and the other for Red Bull.  Every time I walk past the displays, I think to myself, “man, I should pick up some Red Bull Zero.  I need some caffeine in the morning but I don’t want to stain my teeth, and I like that I can now get that without carbs or sugar.”  “Yes,” I say to myself, “I totally need to buy that.”

But when decision time comes, of course I reach for a sixer of Commodore Perry instead: abandoning my plans of future workplace productivity for present comfort and deliciousness.

It happens every time.  I have the desire to buy Red Bull, I have the intention, but I can’t do it.

Then cut to a few weeks ago.  A new music video pops up on facebook from one of my all-time favorite bands.  I watch it, share it, and go about my normal day.

When I go home I’m back to the grocery store, back to staring down the two tempting endcaps, and back to making my same irrational decision again.  Right?

Not this time.

Somehow, for some reason, I went ahead and bought the Red Bull.  It was time to make the right decision.

A few hours later it dawned on me that I’d been had.

“Dude, just get to the point.”

The point is that Red Bull paid for the music video.  It was uploaded by RedBullMusic, but maybe you didn’t know that.  There are a few quick frames of a guy drinking a Red Bull in the background of one brief scene in the video, but you kind of have to be looking for it to catch it.  It’s a subtle piece of branded entertainment.

One that got me to finally make a purchase.

Watching that video subtly put Red Bull at the top of my mind, and guided my hand to purchase their product.  And while we love to laud online analytics and track clickthrough rates and applaud ourselves over the number of conversions we complete, sometimes advertising works in magical ways that just can’t be measured.

A number of entertaining things making the rounds online are really just subtle advertisements.

Uncle Drew?

Advertising.

The Subservient Chicken?

Advertising.

That cool Lego brain teaser?

Lego Teaser

Advertising.

So instead of sticking a megaphone next to your ear saying, “hey buy this product because the product is good and you’ll have a better more enjoyable life if you buy our product and our product is just what the doctor ordered so buy our product today”, companies are opting for a softer sell, saying something more like, “hey, here’s a thing to have fun with and enjoy.  Check it out.  If you appreciate it, check out our products, too.  If not, no biggie.”

And while the soft sell may not have the numbers or fancy analytics to back it up, it is certainly working.

Stuff like this still never works, though.

Because I like to be thought of by others as a solipsistic, curmudgeonly misanthrope I always say that my birthday is my favorite holiday.  My birthday falls between Christmas and New Year’s, but I contend that the creation of me is a far more important event.

My childhood mentors.

But if I’m truly honest with myself, I think I get a bigger kick out of New Year’s than I do any other holiday.

Why?

Because on New Year’s everyone puts aside their differences, if only for a few hours, to simply have a good time.

Complaining, fault-finding, and grudges all give way to a celebration of a new year – another year of existence where we strive to be better than we were before.  Where I’d normally see an endless stream of Facebook updates about which political candidate is really Satan or how someone who tailgated you on the highway should be murdered or how a rude salesclerk demonstrates just how stupid and inept and moribund the entire human race is, I instead see messages of congratulations, happiness, and hopefulness.  It’s a rare but welcomed period of unity.

The only other event I can think of that approaches the same level of goodwill as New Year’s would have to be the Olympic Games: one more occasion where hope edges out despair, people generally get along, and we all try to just have a good time.

It seems that marketers feel the same way, too, creating advertising that speaks to the best in us during these times of Olympic-ness.  There are ads that attempt to evoke the greatness within us,

that encourage us to cheer as one,

and that aim to just plain amp you the f up.

Some are cutesy,

some are downright WTF-ey,

and some are simply sublime.

All of them aim to inspire the viewer to do something, beyond just buying laundry detergent or a Big Mac or a new pair of sneakers, and that’s pretty cool in my blog.

WEEKLY TIME OF QUESTIONING!

Who is your favorite superhero or villain?

Like I said, I enjoy being thought of as a miserly, crotchety cantankersaur, so my favorite superhero/villain is naturally C. Montgomery Burns from The Simpsons.  He’s a real people person.

My expression when I nail the perfect headline.

Has your creative flow gone stagnant?  Need a kick-start to come up with new ideas?  Take a cue from good ol’ Ernie on how to get brilliant again:

A great way to remain creative is to travel– you know, go places and do things and, uh, try stuff and whatever.  You know what I mean, right?”

Ernest Hemingway

Can’t argue with the master.

In advertising things are no different.  I recently read The Idea Writers, a great book on contemporary copywriting, where a prominent New York-based CW mentioned spending most of her time writing in hotel lobbies.  Inspired by that tip, as well as the recent findings that architecture can influence creativity, I spent the better part of this morning checking out creative hotspots in downtown Cleveland.

Here are my findings:

Downstairs Lounge Area at Brokaw

The closest spot is often the best.  If I need to get cracking on my headlines I’ll leave my laptop behind, go downstairs, and stare at the wall until I fall asleep.  Then I’ll wake up, panic, and write down a few good lines.

Renaissance Cleveland Hotel

Sure, it’s called the Renaissance now, but it’s been a hotel of some sort for the last 197 years.

Formerly Mowry’s Tavern!?!

This spot, attached to the sprawling Tower City Center complex, is jam-packed full of history and elegance.  If you can’t come up with an idea here maybe one of the many ghosts that roam the premises can help you out.

Tower City Center

Exit the lobby of the Renaissance and you’ll find yourself in this massive expanse of public space: the front atrium of Tower City Center.

Formerly Cleveland’s Union Terminal, Tower City Center is now an urban shopping mall.  In the main mall atrium you can pull up a seat, watch the fountains, and people-watch to draw inspiration.  Though getting asked for change about 750 times may encourage you to leave.

The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland

Also connected to Tower City is Cleveland’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel (yes, you read that right: Cleveland somehow has a Ritz-Carlton hotel).  Their lobby is nice-looking and all, but the low ceilings and lack of chairs make for a difficult time writing-wise.  Go elsewhere.

The Colonial Arcade

Not to be confused with the Old Arcade (which was a rip-off of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II), the Colonial Arcade (which is instead a rip-off of the Burlington Arcade) sits between Euclid and Prospect Avenues.  Though a good people-watching corridor, the Colonial lacks seating outside of the food court and isn’t the best for getting stuff done.  The pizza is great, though.

Wyndham Cleveland at Playhouse Square

This one’s a little bit off the beaten path, being by Playhouse Square and all, but it does the trick for getting things done: high ceilings, plush seatings, and people don’t shoo you out for falling asleep and drooling all over yourself.  What more could you ask for?

Hyatt Regency Cleveland at the Arcade

The lobby itself is small and suffers from an identity crisis, design-wise.  All that goes by the wayside once you peer out into the atrium: in my opinion the greatest indoor view Cleveland has to offer.  Yes, this is the Old Arcade I previously spoke of.

With over 120 years of history, something is bound to inspire you here.

The BP Building 200 Public Square

Once the home of Sohio, then BP America, and now nothing really notable, 200 Public Square boasts of a vast, massive atrium, replete with fountains and flora.  One missing piece of the lobby is the giant “Free” stamp, which BP thought too dumb to hang in their atrium.  Instead it was dumped in a park and called “public art”.  Thanks BP, for this and all other disasters.

Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Center

Fact: The Downtown Marriott is housed in the official “mini-me” building of Key Tower.

Key Tower, Left; Marriott Building, Below Right.

The lobby of the Marriott is pretty standard hotel fare; spacious, a good place to watch people, and full of comfortable seating.  I mean, there’s nothing that really distinguishes it from other lobbies, like flame-headed goblins that shoot tapioca out of their eyes.  Because if there were, I’d take photos of them.

You’ll have to settle for this instead:

Cleveland Public Library

Quite possibly the mac-daddy of creative/productive places, the library is a veritable fortress of philomathea.  Room after room of quiet concentration beckon:

Rooms aren’t doing it for you?  Take a walk through the cavernous hallways and massive staircases to stoke the creative flames.

These eyes watch to ensure you don’t goof off.

If that’s not enough, you can always soak up the summer weather in the Maya Lin-designed reading garden, where words, plants, and architecture converge to inspire.

As you can see, I’m a writer, not a photographer.

And if you’re still searching for inspiration after reading through all this and visiting all of the above places, you may just consider giving up for the day.

Not every baby turtle makes it to the sea, no matter how adorable they are.  Some will even end up in the sewers, mutate, reach their teen years and fight crime for the good of mankind.

Donatello, age 3 days.

Similarly, not every line I write will make it into an advertisement, no matter how amazing it may be.  Rejects will be left to a stack of unkempt papers, mutate, and land on this blog for the enjoyment of my three followers.

In the spirit of Friday the 13th, I’d like to resurrect a few of my dead ideas.  Here are some of the gems that didn’t quite make it:

For a regional hospital’s lunch-and-learn event about the human liver
America: Love her or liver alone.
Will you learn a lot?  Liver’n and surely!

For a golf function to benefit a local police department
The cops are around: try not to shank anything.

For a national chain of quick-service Italian restaurants
End smorgasboredom
[Client Name]: The cure for male-pattern blandness.
After eating this your taste buds will become lifelong taste friends.
Join the Italian Fastest party!

My CD says “hi” to me by making this strange gesture.

And so I trudge further, in search of copywriting gold.  With the bad ideas out of the way, I finally have room for more bad ideas.

But to be honest all these ideas are leaving less room for my stash of baby turtles.  If anyone’s interested I have about 20 up for grabs, all trained to at least a red-belt level.

Mandatory Question of the Week™
Tell us an obscure, fun fact about yourself!

That, uh, doesn’t sound like a question to me, but given that you’re mandatory I think I’ll go ahead and answer (rather than suffer the dire, dire consequences).

When I was in fifth grade, I received a graded essay back from my teacher with the following inscription:

Evan would much rather give a witty one-liner than craft a thoughtful, compelling five-paragraph essay.

I knew I was destined to be a copywriter ever since.

This past Wednesday we Americans marked a truly special, momentous day:  The one-month anniversary of the Brokaw interns’ start date!

That facial expression means “thank you, Brokaw interns!”

To celebrate, I’d like to take a look back on all I’ve learned since.

Remember June 4th, 2012?  Those were some crazy times.  Pop culture was so strange – what were we thinking?

Ah, yes.  I was just a young lad back then and didn’t know the first thing about advertising.  Luckily my awesome Words department buddies took me under their collective wing and showed me how it’s done, Brokaw style.

From Top: Mark, Trish, and Aaron.

They gave me a workstation and daily production quota of 2,000 words.  Each day I work hard to come up with new and exciting words to use in advertising – words like “crustastache”, “obligathon” and “lipofunction” – words that really encompass what our clients are trying to sell.

These words then pass through quality control where they’re examined on a 16-point quality scale before heading down to assembly.

Our words assembly line.

At Brokaw, we refer to assembled strings of words as “sentences” for some reason.  These “sentences” go next to the art department, where our craftspeople laboriously match “sentences” to relevant images.  When everything gets matched up and ready to go, our Creative Director Steve will give us the go-ahead or no-go-ahead to proceed.

Our patient boss.

If approved, our finished advertisements will then get loaded by barge or by train and sent across the world.  Fancy that!

Brokaw Outbound Terminal #5

This job sure isn’t easy, but it certainly has its rewards.  When I see a family sitting down at the dinner table together, enjoying an advertisement I helped make, I can’t help but smile knowing that I had a hand in their shared joy.

Satisfied Brokaw customers.

That’s a satisfaction you can’t buy with money.

Intern Evan back again, reporting on yet another week of  Bromazingness!

This week I awoke at the crack of 2:30am to head down to Business Traveler Appreciation Day at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.  We interns passed out coffee, newspapers, and smiles to the loyal jet-setters who roam the terminals of CLE.

To lift spirits in the early morning, I did my patented “5am jig”.

It wasn’t appreciated nearly as much as the coffee.  Ingrates.

But once the sun came up and the travelers came out, things really started to roll.  Did you know that I ran into Lil’ John in Terminal C?!?

Little John and I.

Wait, wrong one.

Little John and I.

One more try here:

Little John and I.

Well, I got the Little John part right.

Actually, for the record, it’s Lil’ John.  He’s one half (by quantity; one third by height) of “Big Chuck and Lil’ John”, a late-night comedy duo from Cleveland.  When I was younger I’d stay up way too late and stumble across their program.  Then I’d become too frightened to go to sleep at all.

Just listen to that creepy laughter…

FACT: Lil’ John has made about 42,000 times more money from his TV repair business than with his on-screen TV business, especially with the way the Browns have played lately the past 17 years.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK:
“What would your theme song be?”

Good question, week.  I’d say my theme song is “Heaven Can Wait” by Charlotte Gainsbourg and Beck.  Not because of anything specifically stated in the song itself, but rather because the video so closely resembles my own life.

It’s uncanny.

Word up!

Life in the words department has been pretty swell so far.  For somebody who wants to write copy for a living, I’ve certainly gotten a lot of practice.  It’s only week 3 of the internship, but I’ve already written for:

Direct mail,
Print,
Billboards,
Surfboards,
T-Shirts,
Online, and
Naked Mole Rats (NSFW)

Of course there are the requisite intern tasks to perform, too.  These include:

Keeping the Brokaw fridge stocked,

warding off truncheon-wielding miscreants from the vicinity of our sacred Brokawffice,

and securing a landing spot for Bill Brokaw’s Bro-kawpter.

You’ll hear more from me next week.  That’s not a threat, it’s a promise.

Yours sincerely,

BONUS QUESTION!
“What’s your spirit animal?”

Good question, Bonus.  I’d have to say my spirit animal is the lobster.  It influences everything from the clothes I wear

to the movies I see.

Hot Tail Inside!

I’ve also spent a lot of time up in Maine, living there on occasion.  But the more I read about those cuddly crustaceans, the more impressed I get.  Did you know that, theoretically, lobsters can live forever?  Now that’s a special power.

My spirit animal runner-up is Gumby.

Freshly-minted copywriting intern Evan T. here, reporting for duty.  Since this is my first posting as a Brokawvite, I figured I’d introduce myself:

This is me by day.

By night, though, I look more like this.

I am a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, home of legendary advertising executive Jon Hamm.  At UT I study advertising, with a focus on copywriting.  And hey!  Whaddya know: Brokaw put me in their Words Department!

So far my favorite intern chore has been flagpole duty.  I have the honor of ascending to the top of Brokaw Tower, climbing the loose scaffolding and hoisting Old Glory on a daily basis.  Those Lake Erie winds really whip up at fifteen stories high, but I’ve managed to keep from falling most times.

I was drawn to Brokaw a few years back when they posted their moustache contest results on their webpage.  I even showed up to an interview en moustache, which the Brokaw brothers have graciously forgiven.  Lesson learned: nobody at Brokaw rocks the ‘stache anymore.

This week I also learned that Brokaw has a strict zero-tolerance policy on Myspace pictures.

You’ll hear plenty more from me in the coming weeks.  Sorry in advance.