Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Swiss Retirement Scheme

This morning, I read an article in the New York Times about how some U.S. employers are temporarily suspending their employee 401(k) matching to cope with the awful economy.

Fortunately, in Switzerland, employer matchings are required by law, as are employee contributions.

There are three components to the Swiss retirement scheme, and they're known as the Three Pillars.

Pillar 1: State pension. This is basically Swiss social security. 5.05% is taken out of every paycheck and employers match to make it 10.1%. Contributions are required by law. This is paid out when you retire or (in my case) when you leave the country for good.

Pillar 2: Employer pension. This is more like a company pension fund. Contributions range from 7 to 18% and increase with age. I get this when I retire in Switzerland or when I leave the country.

Pillar 3: Private pension. Contributions are voluntary. Sort of like owning your own mutual funds and life insurance. Tax deductible, and receivable when I leave the country.

So the three pillars cover state, employer, and individual. Pretty comprehensive. I'd love to hear what any of you finance geniuses think about this.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Holidays Sans Swag

I was spoiled with holiday swag* at Y&R Chicago. Every December, production companies would send the creative department ridiculously cool gifts. (After receiving several hundred thousands of dollars of business, most editing houses and sound studios will set some aside to reciprocate the holiday love.) Previous gifts have included:
  • A first-generation video iPod (thanks, Biscuit)
  • A limited edition (red) iPod Nano (thanks, Optimus)
  • The sweetest ski coat I've ever owned (thanks, Elias)
  • A $100 gift certificate at the Apple Store (thanks, SoundSlave)
  • A pile of ultra-premium chocolate (thanks, National Parks Conservation Association - a client!)
  • Enough gift baskets to build a small shelter with (thanks, everyone else)

But there were no iPods for me this year in Geneva.

I did receive a very thoughtful Christmas card from Bill Rohlfing, a great voiceover talent I worked with frequently. Bill helped us on a ton of projects in Chicago, and was the main VO on the NPCA spot "Search & Rescue" which shortlisted at Cannes, and can be heard here.

If you're in Chicago (or even if you're not), use Bill Rohlfing. He's very nice. He's very talented. And he sends trans-Atlantic Christmas cards.

* I used the think SWAG stood for "stolen without a gun," but the Urban Dictionary says it primarily means "stuff we all get," as well as "scientific/silly wild ass guess" and "sister with a gun."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Producers Who Rock

A while ago, I posted a shoutout to all the great art directors I've ever worked with.

Having just gone on a three-spot production without an agency producer, I would be remiss not to do the same for all the great producers I've had the great pleasure to work with. I still don't know your pain, but I had a taste.

Addie. Ashley. Brian. Courtney. Ellen. Jay. Jeremy. Joy. Kim. Luke. Matt. Patti. Paul. Will.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Production Results

Results of production. Comments?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Make Money Teaching English in Europe!

I'm amazed at the number of post-university students who come to Europe, thinking they're going to support themselves by teaching English. I think these kids consistently overlook two key facts:

  1. The ability to do something is not indicative of the ability to teach it.
  2. Simple supply and demand. Contrary to what most of these kids believe, teaching English isn't like giving away gold. Or even free sandwiches.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tortellini au homard

I went to lunch with an expat friend today. The plat du jour was tortellini au homard. I asked the waiter what homard is. He replied, “In English: hamster.”

My friend and I thought no way. But then we remembered in France they eat horsemeat, so hamster pasta couldn’t be too far a stretch.

So we pulled the trigger and ordered hamster pasta. It was pretty good. It tasted a lot like lobster.

Which is a strange coincidence, because “hamster” sounds a lot like “lobster” when spoken by a Swiss waiter with a lip ring.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Boston Blackies

The other day, our creative team was discussing using a black background on an ad. The words “black background” were repeated with great frequency, and somehow I found myself thinking about Boston Blackies, one of the great hamburger joints of Chicago.

I don’t get too nostalgic here. But, man I wanted a Black and Blue burger with coleslaw yesterday.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Doctor House

In Switzerland (and I believe throughout Europe), the network hit starring Hugh Laurie is referred to as “Doctor House.” Not “House” as everyone in the States knows it. “Doctor House.” So weird.

Based on this, I’ve retitled a few other shows to make them more European…
  • People in the Office
  • Lost on an Island
  • Madison Avenue Men
  • 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York City, New York
  • Iron Chef America Cooking Show Challenge
  • Late Night at Night with Conan O’Brien
  • Saturday Night Comedy Skits Performed Live
  • Battlestar Galactica: Outerspace Fighting

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

How to Have a Great Client Meeting

One of our clients is on the far east end of the lake. It's about an hour train ride from Geneva. This is what I see going and coming from client meetings...

They are great clients, and I can't say I've ever had a bad meeting with them. But even if we did, with a ride like this, I don't think anyone could head back to Geneva in too bad a mood.

Monday, December 8, 2008

What our kids are worth

Every month, the Swiss government gives us an extra 600 Swiss Francs - 200 chf for each of our three children.

In the US, the most recent stimulus package gave us a one-time $300 per child. And as dependents, they factored into how much is withheld from each paycheck.

I'm not a tax lawyer. I'm sure I'm missing something here. But 2400 chf per child seems like a pretty good deal to me.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Licensed to Veg

With our new TV, we had to register with Billag.

Billag is not a cable provider, a network, or a manufacturer. They are simply the people you pay when you have a TV or radio in Switzerland.

See, in Switzerland, you have to have a license to have TV or radio. Even if you have no TV and your only functioning radio is in your car, you'll have to pay a monthly fee of 14.10 Swiss Francs to Billag.

Since we have TV, we'll have to pay about 32.35 a month. That's on top of cable.

I know plenty of people with TVs who've never paid anything to Billag. For them it's kind of like speeding on the highway. You might get caught. But you probably won't. (Billag sends random inspectors to homes to fine unlicensed TV and radio owners.)

Since we're expats with meager French skills, we've decided to play by the rules.

Still, I imagine a lot of the monthly payments go towards staffing for inspectors who go around checking to make sure people have made their monthly payments.

"We can't abolish Billag! How will we pay for people to make sure people are using Billag?"

Thursday, December 4, 2008

How to Get a Job Overseas, Part II

My friend, Claire Chen-Carter is an award-winning, Bay Area art director who started her career as an expat in Singapore. Here's her take on getting a job overseas...

These days getting a job 'there' is the same as getting a job "here"... network like crazy to obtain 1 or 2 good overseas contacts and have a decent portfolio. Then set time to fly there with your portfolio. Regarding the portfolio, having an online URL is a must so that it's a part of in your introductory email. And unless you are a CD level, don't have the delusion that some agency is going to buy your first-class ticket to fly there for interviews.

When i got my job outta VCU, email was getting popular but not as ubiquitous as it is now. I remember having to make long distance international calls from the US to try to set things up in Singapore. Now that is not necessary. Boy, do i sound like a dinosaur ("in my day, we had to dial a phone and know +011...")

Headhunters might be of more use, now, as everyone is more global.

As part of the networking (or just googling), one can find a headhunter contact in the target country. All the big recruitment firms here have offices there. they can give u a good overview of how the market is doing and hopefully give some good pointers.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

How to Get a Job Overseas

I receive a fair amount of emails asking me how to get a job overseas. They come from friends and friends of friends and people I don't know who sort of know people I only kind of know. And I tell them all the same thing: I'm not sure.

It's kind of like asking someone who won the lottery how they did it. I'd been playing for two years, and suddenly, it just happened.

As far as I can tell, there are only two ways to get a job overseas (at least in advertising):

  1. Transfer within the network.
  2. Get a headhunter.

I came to Geneva by way of the former. Because I was interested in going overseas, I was also pursuing via the latter, and had a couple opportunities in Dubai that would have been awesome as fallbacks.

But in either case it's a right place/right time kind of thing. (Not unlike getting a job stateside.)

If any of you expat readers have any other advice, I'd love to hear it, post it and share it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Project 100

I've been selected as one of 100 authors for the Project 100. It's a collaborative effort initiated by Jeff Caswell, the VP of Marketing at Danone Waters of America - Evian.

100 authors contributing 400 words each on the subject "Marketing in the Social Media Era." There will be an ebook as well as a tangible copy available for purchase with all profits going to support Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Jeff Caswell says they should be available Dec. 15th. I just got excited and wanted to announce my participation early.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I don't make this stuff up.

A client doesn’t want me to use the word "improved" in the body copy because they’re afraid it will make their new product sound better than their old product.