My Mom, Rita.

Mom dad wedding
Rita was born in Hoboken, New Jersey on a date that is a very closely guarded secret. Her parents were a young brave couple who had recently arrived from Genoa, Italy, Carmella and Joseph. Rita was so proud of that heritage.
Italian wedding
She married a dashing young serviceman Vernon Paul Gentemann from Burlington, Vermont a few years after the great war. After several postings from Rome, New York to Nome, Alaska the couple ended up at Gunter Air Force base (an Italian from Jersey in the heart of the deep South).

Rita worked at Montgomery Fair (for those who remember), then Fuller and Dees (she is still in touch with Morris Dees after all these years) and then as an assistant for Dr. David Dunn until she landed a job at the State Highway Department where she worked for many years forming fast and firm friendships with so many of the people here in Montgomery.

She was proud mother of Gerald and Debra, grandmother of Katherine, Jeremy, Lindsay, Jenna, Allyson and Jordan, and a new great grandmother to Ansley. But as everyone who knew Rita knows, she was a little bit of a “mom” to countless friends and family members all over town and all over the country.
Mom passed away peacefully Wednesday evening February 13, 2013.

My Top Three Super Bowl Commercials

In no particular order here is my top three list for best Super Bowl commercials. I have worked on a few Super Bowl efforts over the years at BBDO for Pepsi, Visa, and FedEx but I am beginning to think the ideas for Super Sunday are taking a back seat to over done special effects, borrowed celebrity interest, and just plain “let’s throw big money at the concept” thinking.

The Coke spot and Kia spot for instance are perfect examples of the advertising agencies entertaining themselves in public at the client’s expense, what value was created for these 60 second, $5.6 million investments? 
1) Chrysler Farmer – Paul Harvey’s two minute tribute to the farmer captured my attention with the delivery, the great still pictures and the writing.  If Dodge Ram wants to stand for rugged, hard working, salt of the earth men, then this commercial delivers on the brand strategy. 
2) Tide Montana Stain – Let’s give Procter and Gamble credit, they developed a commercial that featured the product’s key benefit – stain removal and tied in the 49ers and the Ravens.  I am not sure the Super Bowl is the right venue for a detergent commercial, but they get an A+ for delivering the message and I am sure the viral aspect of this creative will pay off for P&G. 
3) Budweiser Clydesdales – I have to admit, I have been extremely negative about the Budweiser Clydesdale commercials in the past couple of years especially since they were created by BBDO’s sister agency.  The magic formula here was the emotion packed story that brings out the best quality in all of us.  That little tug on our heart strings delivered the brand message of heritage, tradition and quality.  Will it sell any Bud? I am not sure.

US Federal Income Tax is 100 today!

Robert Reich reminded us all that today, exactly a century ago, on February 3, 1913, the 16th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, authorizing a federal income tax. Congress turned it into a graduated tax, based on “capacity to pay.” It was among the signal victories of the progressive movement — the first constitutional amendment in 40 years (10 had been included in the Bill of Rights, the 11th and 12th in 1789 and 1804, and three others in consequence of the Civil War), reflecting a great political transformation in America.
The 1880s and 1890s had been the Gilded Age, the time of robber barons, when a small number controlled almost all the nation’s wealth as well as our democracy, when poverty had risen to record levels, and when it looked as though the country was destined to become a moneyed aristocracy. But almost without warning, progressives reversed the tide. Teddy Roosevelt became president in 1901, pledging to break up the giant trusts. Laws were enacted protecting the public from impure foods and drugs, and from corrupt legislators. By 1909 Democrats and progressive Republicans had swept many state elections, establishing the 40-hour work week. Woodrow Wilson won the 1912 presidential election.

Reich warns, a progressive backlash against concentrated wealth and power occurred a century ago in America. It will happen again.

It official Toyota has won the Super Bowl pre-game blitz.

By now you know the strategy: Nearly $4 million is a lot of dough for a 30-second Super Bowl ad, so marketers taking the plunge are under more pressure than ever to make it count. That now generally means releasing the ad, and teasers, on the web early and unleashing huge PR and social media campaigns to gather up as many impressions as possible before and after the actual game.

Over the past few years, Honda ‘s Ferris Bueller ad and Volkswagen ‘s “The Force” worked that pre-game strategy to perfection . In Volkswagen’s case that was after a heated internal debate over whether to release the spot early at all and thus ruin the surprise; it decided to risk it.

This year, another automaker is a clear pre-game winner: Toyota . As of Friday morning, the automaker has more than 11 million views on its “Wish Granted” campaign, including 3.2 million on this excellent teaser , according to Visible Measures, which tracks all views across the web, not just YouTube.

Volkswagen came in at No. 2, with a little over 6 million views, no doubt in part driven by the controversy over “Get Happy,” but also driven by a teaser with nearly 1.5 million views .

What we’ve learned over the past few years is that lots of pre-game views are helpful, there are more views to be had over the weeks that follow. Last year, for example, while Honda took pre-game honors, Volkswagen’s “Dog Strikes Back” had racked up 31 million views a week after the game.

I think the new Toyota spot is too close in concept to so many spots on air lately…State Farm for one. Although it won this pre game poll and seems to be popular, as a creative director I can’t believe they could not be more original.

5 Things We Can Learn From Groundhog Day

I read this story on while incidentally watching Groundhog Day yet again.

Every year on Groundhog Day, along with waiting for the verdict on the length of winter from the world’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, TV stations across the country dust off the 1993 movie Groundhog Day.

Some believe that the cult-classic starring Bill Murray is a film that illustrates the concepts of Buddhism and achieving enlightenment. In the film, weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) relives the same day over and over again until he gets it right through hard work, self awareness, and sacrifice.

The movie’s writer, Danny Rubin, understands the connection to Buddhist beliefs, but says he did not design the story around any one religion. “Everybody seems to bring their own way of thinking and their own discipline to bear on the ideas within it,” Rubin says.

Regardless of your religious persuasion, here are a few universal truths for living we can all take from Groundhog Day:

1. Be kind to others. On Phil Connors’ “perfect day” he saves a child’s life, helps two women change a tire, gives a newlywed couple wrestling tickets, and completes many other good deeds. He even buys insurance from annoying salesman, Ned. Bing!

2. Try different things. If your life becomes a redundant cycle of work and sleep, there’s still time to try new things.  Take up ice sculpting or learn to play piano, you never know when it will come in handy.

3. You can’t fight the weather or who you are. Ironically, Phil the weatherman tries to deny the coming blizzard because it doesn’t fit in with his life. Only when he accepts his situation does he begin to grow as a person. Work with what you have; people will love you for that.

4. To find real love work on you. Phil learns everything about his love interest Rita, down to her favorite ice cream. But what she really falls in love with is his passion for life.

5. Life is what you make it. As Rubin says, at first for Phil Connors it’s “the worst day of his life. And, by the end of the movie, we see that it’s the exact same day but somehow this is probably the best day of his life.”