Thursday, July 23, 2009

Parks Lawyers Would Never Build, Part 1

The parks we've come across in Europe could never be built in America because they'd give too many people too many reasons to sue whoever designed them, built them and maintained them. In other words, the parks we've seen here are a lot more fun than the ones in America.

So here's the first in what I plan to be a series of Parks Lawyers Would Never Build.

This one was in a small mountain town in France. The zig-zag walking platform is almost four feet high with nothing more than some very distant metal poles to grab onto for support.

U.S. LAWYER SOLUTION: Secure the walking area with netting on both sides of the planks. Also, use more planks to transform the zig-zag platform into a solid floor. The wood should then be be thoroughly sanded.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Most cities have their cool, artsy neighborhood. New York has SoHo. Chicago has Bucktown. Richmond, Virginia has Cary Street. (I guess Texas has Austin, but that's on a macro level.) Well in Geneva, it's Carouge.

It feels a bit older, but also a lot hipper. Most of the shops are art galleries or designer furniture boutiques. I wasn't too surprised strolling through Carouge to discover Saatchi & Saatchi's Geneva office. It's the yellow building on the far left...

Here's Saatchi from the other angle...

I'm not complaining. I like having an office a couple blocks from the lake, and being able to see the Jet d'Eau whenever I'm in my CEO's office. But when I'm working on my own outside the office, it's usually on a park bench somewhere in Carouge.

Out of curiosity, what's the Carouge of your city?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Smells from the kitchen

This is a restaurant in our neighborhood.

There is always a kind of weird smell coming from this place. It smells like food. But maybe not the kind of food you're used to eating.

(I once wrote a commercial that had a grandma reminiscing about the holidays and "the smells coming from the kitchen." When we started shooting, we realized "smells" was the wrong word, so we changed it to "the aromas coming from the kitchen." I think about this commercial a lot when I pass this place because this kitchen definitely has smells coming from it.)

The other day, I noticed this sign outside the restaurant and I began to wonder how much of the weird smell thing it explains.

"Steak cheval" is "horse steak."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Airlines I Have Yet To Fly, Part 3

Another in a series.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I've been in Europe over a year, and I still can't bring myself to use these public toilets.

Not sure why. It's probably a lot more sanitary, and I bet most people tend to hover over regular toilet bowls anyway when they're in rest stops and malls. Maybe I just don't like the idea of a toilet being designed with my feet in mind.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Blogosphere Experiments, Part 5: The Virtual Ghost Town of Blogs

There are a lot of dead blogs on the net - digital ghost towns of one-post blogs lost in limbo.

Before deciding to call my new blog Titanium Bound, I came up with a list of names and asked a few friends for their ideas, too. But once I started checking the availability of names, I realized they were all taken by dead blogs.

Here's a sample of the names I checked and the status of the blog that already owns that name. Those marked with a * indicate blogs with a single post (i.e., someone started the blog and then decided it was too hard).

NAME: Flux Capacitor

NAME: Signpost
LAST POST: 2002*

NAME: Bend in the River
LAST POST: 2005*

NAME: Another Thing Coming

NAME: Gathers No Moss

NAME: Adnostic
LAST POST: Sept. 2008*

NAME: Volution
LAST POST: Oct. 2008 (blog is in French)

NAME: Premonition
LAST POST: 2003*

NAME: Ice to Eskimos
LAST POST: Sept. 2008

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Swedish Praise

My art director Fred asked me if I would help him develop an idea for a competition on It was for a Swedish hotel chain that wanted a bit of rebranding.

We didn't put a ton of work into it. Maybe a couple hours after work. But last Friday we were told our submission is one of the five finalists.

We won two nights at a Rica Hotel - a prize that's more impressive to people outside the industry, but a little more awkward to share than a Cannes Lion.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Titanium Bound - an experimental blog

I'm going to launch another blog. I do question the wisdom of authoring yet another blog. But this one's more a repository of ideas than a blog. It's about developments in the ad industry that challenge my own expectations of what an ad agency should do and be. Three examples:

1. Fallon recently launched Skimmer. What business does an ad agency have developing web applications?

2. Big Agency Defector's 20:20:20 method of billing new clients. This is a brilliant idea. What aren't more agencies doing it?

3. Coca-Cola's pushing their pay-for-performance model of agency compensation. Great news for agencies? Or should we break out the picket signs?

It's not going to be "Hey, check out the new campaign from Wieden." It can't be. The web groans under the weight of all those blogs.

This is basically a blog to help me understand one thing: When I'm asked to help lead an agency, what kind of agency are we going to be? Ten years ago, I would have said, "We'll do print, TV and radio." I don't think anyone can say that anymore.

I'm calling the new blog Titanium Bound. I'm already regretting the name (borrowed from the Cannes Lion category). But I'm not looking to win a Pulitzer or anything, so whatever. Anyone interested in contributing? I'd love to have some smart co-authors.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Chocolate Packaging

Someone was passing these around the agency last week. As usual, the chocolate is just crazy good.
Not all of the chocolates in Switzerland come in high-end packaging, though. Some of the best chocolate I've had is the local store's retail brand, which comes in basically the same packaging as their corn flakes, yogurt and beer: white packaging with a pink stripe and the store's logo. Generic outside, but better than anything Hershey makes on the inside.

Still, there's something about the design of these chocolates that just made them taste better. It's just good packaging preparing me for the experience.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Italy's got a branding problem

When I tell people about my Fourth of July trip to Genova, I get a few blank stares. But if I say, "You know, Genoa?" the lights come on. Pesonally, I wasn't even sure which pronunciation was Italian until I visited myself and saw Genova on all the road signs.

You see this problem every once in a while in Europe. Paris is still Paris even when it's Par-ee. The native Germans call Munich "M√ľnchen" which is fine, but I don't know why they call French-speaking Geneva "Genf."

Still, no country is as all over the place as Italy.

Rome = Roma
Milan = Milano

Genoa = Genova
Turin = Torino

Florence = Firenze
Venice = Venezia

Clearly, Italy has no brand manager. Imagine Coca-Cola being called Cooala-Cokie in Bologna, or someone in Padova bumming a Marlbrizio cigarette from you.

I'm not saying Italians should call Firenze Florence. But Italy definitely needs to impose some brand guidelines.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fourth of July with Columbus

We celebrated the Fourth of July by driving four hours to Genova, Italy to see where Christopher Columbus was born. It's kind of a stretch, I know. He's not one of the Founding Fathers. He never set foot on mainland America. And Stephen Ambrose and Joseph Ellis never wrote about him. But his childhood home was as close to the New World as we could get on the Fourth. And we'll take any excuse to go to Italy.

Here's a pretty spectacular statue of Columbus in downtown Genova...

What you don't see are all the hobos sleeping in the shade, and the grungy train station to the right. This picture was taken in the bus parking lot.

I think there are about six cities that claim to be the birthplace of Columbus including Lisbon, Chios and someplace in Ohio. But I think Genova is the only one that actually has a house they claim he grew up in...

It was interesting to drive through this massive port city full of huge cathedrals, dingy apartment complexes and baroque banks to find this tiny brick hovel standing untouched in the middle of it all. It was something out of the Lorax.

Apart from Columbus' house, the highlight was gelatto. Although my curiosity led me to try a lilac-colored flavor called "Viola" which tasted exactly like fru-fru handsoap.

On the whole, Genova is not a destination spot. It had its charm, but it was kind of Amafi Coast meets Ogden, Utah.

No fireworks. Happy Fourth, everyone.