Sadly, not beckoned

I feel compelled to react to Littlejohn’s most recent post, in which he points a big arrow to Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s latest project to make a film comprised of “lovely things” submitted by everyone so inclined.

I checked out the short film chronicling the event that inspired or kicked off this larger film project. At first, it did my hippie heart good, watching this charming story of an event that she caused last August in Millennium Park in Chicago.

But that hippie heart of mine has always been sort of half-hearted. I just can’t reconcile it with the darker part of me that finds emptiness, folly and/or hubris in most human undertakings. That part of me promptly filed Ms. Rosenthal’s project in the same bin where I store so many silly sentiments that pop up in our culture. Make love, not war. Music can change the world. Stuff like that.

It is refreshing, I suppose, and surprising, to come across such an innocent and optimistic enterprise. But, as a citizen of the ugly real world, I find my self backing away from the sentiment.

Maybe it’s a guy thing. Maybe I am terminally cynical. Maybe I’m old. Maybe it’s because, as I now realize, “lovely” isn’t in my vocabulary.

Whatever the reason, I just can’t bring myself to join this lovelyfest. My loss, no doubt.

I wish the project and its originator well, but I must recuse myself.

The Beckoning of Lovely.

In advertising, we get to make a lot of stuff: videos, posters, websites, widgets, booklets, characters, sometimes even new inventions. Making stuff is my favorite part of advertising. I think it's most people's favorite part. But it's rare that we ever get to make something that one would describe as lovely. Clever, funny, smart, fresh, innovative, these are the words that most often describe what we do. And sure, advertising has its lovely moments (Cog, Balls, Halo). But when was that last time you made something truly Lovely?

Amy Krouse Rosenthal is an Author, former "Ad Girl" and a skilled maker of stuff (you can see 17 things she made here.) Her latest project is a film called The Beckoning of Lovely. And she wants to use all the lovely things you've made to make it. Music, short films and videos, art, stories, lists, monologues, poems, sand castles, whatever it is you're making, if it's lovely, she wants it.

So, ad friends, this your chance to make something lovely, anything, and then, like we do in the ad biz, share it with the world. But this time you'll be making and sharing something, for the sake of sharing. A lovely thought indeed.

Watch how the Beckoning of Lovely project got started here.

And when you're ready to submit your lovely thing, go to

I’m Joe Blow and I approve this message.

Now that this silly waste of time has become well-established in political advertising, let’s take a moment to examine it.

I guess its original intent was to help viewers distinguish between an official commercial from the candidate and a commercial from some group supporting that candidate, but not sanctioned or financed by him. Some of these wacky groups can get even more irresponsible in their messages than the candidates themselves, so this “claimer” has now become mandatory in order to be clear just where the misleading advertising is coming from.

If politics were a “for-profit” endeavor, I assure you that they would have found a simpler, more efficient way to accomplish this task, rather than burning three-to-five precious seconds of a 30-second spot. For example, a simple seal of approval of some sort could appear in the corner, taking up no time.

But, for now, those who make these commercials are stuck with this stupid declaration.


I was asked to work on a political spot last spring. I’d like to think I was the first person it occurred to, to embrace this mandatory, rather than just having the candidate say it as quickly as possible. But I probably wasn’t. But I’m laying claim to the idea anyway, until someone else disowns me of the honor.

I figured, if the candidate has to speak the words, why not give the words more weight, more reason for being there. Make USE of the statement rather than treating it like evil legal copy (even though that’s what it is.)

I thought it might be nice to hear from the candidate WHY he approved the message. And maybe in the process, underscore his message, thus wringing a little bit of value out of it.

Otherwise, cynical viewers might tend to assume the worst. I know, when watching one of these spots, I often would complete the thought, in my own head, with something like this:

“My name is Joe Blow and I approve this message because I think that it has a good chance of pushing some emotional button with lots of you bozos out there, even if I know perfectly well that it’s misleading, exaggerated or an outright lie.”

So I wrote a script in which the candidate simply asserts, “I approve this message because it’s true.” I thought it would be refreshing to hear the candidate make such a bold claim.

“Hey Marge, did you hear that? This guy is claiming that what he’s saying in his commercial is TRUE! Can he say that? Is that allowed?”

This spot was produced and ran early last spring, prior to a local primary election. I hadn’t heard anyone else ever modify the mandatory in this way up to that point.

Of course, six months later, most of the spots I’m seeing have the candidate expand on the thought, but, invariably, the reason they give for approving the spot doesn’t make sense. All they are doing is using this slot to re-iterate some political blah blah that they “stand for” i.e. “My name is Joe Blow and I approve this message because it’s time to move the country forward.”

That doesn’t really qualify as a reason why he approved the message. In fact,it makes no sense.

I’m just not sure if it doesn’t make sense because the candidate thinks the voting public is too stupid to realize that it makes no sense, or whether the candidate is, himself, too stupid to realize this. I lean toward the latter.

hidden desires

I only have time for a quick post today to point you to a fascinating documentary (The Century of the Self) about Freud's theories and their influence on politics, marketing, advertising, and how we as people consume products.   I'm embedding part 2 of 4 (all available free on Google Video), but this segment talks about the beginning of focus groups and the influence psychoanalysis has had on marketing.  

I'm planning to post more, but my quick take is that Freud's theories show how easily we can be manipulated and the power of persuasion, but they don't suggest that we are merely driven by irrational, subconscious forces (as he thought).  Although we do need to be more aware of why we do what we do (as consumers), and companies should be more honorable in how they *attempt* to manipulate, I don't think we are merely ruled by subconscious forces.  I think we can, through practice, become more aware of our (so called) hidden desires.  


Beg High The Roof Beam

In advertising, it’s important to have a grasp of how and why language is used, so that we can use it appropriately and effectively with whichever audience we are having a conversation. To that end, it’s important to monitor the ever changing meanings of various words and phrases. Here’s an example I’ve noticed lately that may prove instructive.

More and more often we are hearing people use the phrase, “begs the question.”
The rise of the use of this phrase coincides with the frequency with which it is “misused.” To beg the question means, or used to mean, “to assume that which your argument is trying to prove.” This phrase has been commonly used in philosophical discourse and other contexts of scholarly argument.

Today “beg the question” has come to mean, “raise the question.”

Why? What is gained by replacing the phrase, ”raises the question” with the phrase “begs the question”? They denote precisely the same thing. Nothing is gained, in terms of communication effectiveness, by saying “begs the question” rather than “raises the question.”

Yet, more and more, this substitution is being made, led largely by the news media. This development, and countless other similar developments in our constantly changing language, are almost universally mourned, if not reviled, by the self-appointed defenders of the English language, who I call “language zealots.”

This raises the question, “Why?”

The meanings of words and phrases are regularly modified by people using them to mean other than what they had previously meant, even if it doesn’t seem to add to our ability to communicate, and often, in fact, diminishes that ability. Often this change is motivated, ironically, by a person’s desire to sound smart or sophisticated or learned or whatever. I think that is motivation provides a partial explanation for why “raise the question” is becoming “beg the question.”

What I think the zealots are missing is that, at least as regards modern American English, there is another, more fundamental and universal need or motivation. Many American English speakers have need or desire for novelty. We have a strong tendency to evolve, modify, distort, vary bits of language, simply for the sake of novelty.
Why there exists this irrepressible need for novelty, at least in our culture, is a question for someone else to answer. My guess is that there is some kind of cultural ADD behind it. Whatever the reason, judging by the manner and rate at which English evolves, the need is clearly there.

Is this need less “important” than the need for clarity, stability, richness in language? I would say the people have spoken and the answer is no.

BegRecognizing and understanding this need for novelty in language is a useful insight because it provides us with one more lever, one more way to please, entertain, engage our audience. If we use this tool intentionally, rather than unconsciously, we can use it more effectively.

superb insight

I found this ad for to be spot-on regarding the people they are targeting.
They are targeting people that spend a lot of time on the Internet, but are likely a bit self
conscious about that fact. They like the Ineternet, but cherish face-to-face connections
with people.

And, the humor of updating multiple social networks so that friends know our status at all
time juxtaposed with the simplicity of face-to-face conversation is powerful.

This positions well as the company that uses the Internet to help people get off
the Internet.