AD NAUSEAM: a copywriter's life


Valentine’s Day, and the big kiss-off

Posted in Uncategorized by CopyBlogger on the February 14th, 2013

kiss_of_death

A ROSY RED VALENTINE’S DAY TO ALL, with warm hopes that your holiday is replete with cards and chocolates and a plump Cupid shooting arrows wherever they will do the most good. I haven’t written for a while, though a subject has been much on my mind these past few weeks. So this seems like a good opportunity to spread the love and provide an update.

Milestone: one month ago today, yours truly was laid off from Brookstone.

It was Monday, Jan. 14, and I was at my desk when a priority meeting invitation appeared on my email. I remember the time: 9:36 AM. In 24 minutes I was to meet with Brookstone merchandising VP Steven Schwartz, and punctuality was urgently requested.

I thought it might be a withering critique of the Spring catalog we had just put together the week before. But when I got to the conference room there were about 30 chairs in neat rows–way more than would be needed for the catalog team. So people filed in, the 10 o’clock hour came, and a few uneasy minutes later Schwartz came in with an HR woman I hadn’t seen before. He pulled out a letter and read aloud, informing us that we were being laid off as part of a corporate restructuring intended to increase Brookstone’s competitive something-or-other.

The usual BS followed. Very difficult decision, no reflection on our performance, gratitude for service rendered. Then he excused himself and left the HR person to handle questions and answers. The gist of it was, we were expected to leave the building immediately. Boxes would be provided, here’s your packet and severance info, call the number on the card if you need to return and get stuff off your computer.

I’m too obtuse or antisocial to keep up with workplace gossip, but it seemed that my surprise was shared by most. Creative director, lead art director, designers and writers and proofreaders … all gone with the wind. Only a skeleton crew survived the purge in Creative Services. If it was anything like other situations I’ve been in, they probably figured they could save money by scaling back print catalogs in favor of cheaper online marketing. At the very least, there’d be an impressive savings figure they could take credit for.

In the meantime, other letters were being read in other conference rooms. Seventy-one people were laid off, all told, and many were career Brookstone people of unquestioned value to the company. The layoff was so sudden and unannounced, the state unemployment office was unaware of it until reading it in the papers the following day.

Now I’m back on the job market, which is mightily depressing. And I can’t help but feel pessimistic, because this is the third straight job I’ve been laid off from.

Each time it gets worse.

At Stal-McLane, the aging owners simply didn’t have enough business to keep me on, and it pained them to give me my notice. Then at Deluxe, I survived four or five corporate reorganizations while most of the other writers lost their jobs or had positions eliminated. Eventually I lost my job too, but only after a very thorough process in which employees had a chance to “interview” for the reconfigured job descriptions. That was something of a charade, since it was obvious that management wanted to pull jobs back into the corporate HQ in Minnesota; but still, there was plenty of notice and I had a shot at justifying my existence.

Now? It seems layoffs are just a quick-fix tactic for investor relations, with no stigma or residue of public regret. And only the HR people seem to thrive. In this terrible economy, individuals have been under siege for a long time, and corporations seem far more confident–and far less tactful–about pressing their advantage. Even when it doesn’t have a fully thought-out benefit beyond momentarily impressing board members or investors.

It is a meaner time in Business America than any I can remember. I have a friend who just got laid off from Deluxe after 30 years, and he said business was booming there in the time since I left the company. He was busy all the time and the company’s financials were great, but that wasn’t enough. Another friend (also laid off) said that a colleague praised the layoffs for “getting rid of the lazy people”–unaware that she was talking to one.

It’s just business, not personal. That “Godfather” cliche is everywhere these days. But people often make a personal judgment about you after a layoff.

“Why were you terminated?” is the inevitable question, whether you’re talking to an interviewer or the unemployment office. The idea that it was done for no special reason always seems to arouse skepticism.

For example, New Hampshire’s online claim forms give you many options when explaining sudden unemployment: insubordination, absenteeism, poor performance and more. But there’s no option that says, “Management wanted to whitewash a bad quarter.” The onus is on the little guy. He must have done something wrong.

So my brief Prague Spring of fulltime employment at Brookstone is over. I must say it comes as a painful disappointment, just as I was starting to contribute something and solidify a place in the company. Hopefully there will be something new in the near future, but even if there is I don’t think I’ll be able to feel secure anymore. That luxury seems almost quaint nowadays, an irrational mental artifact from a time we won’t see again.

A valentine of sorts

Posted in Uncategorized by CopyBlogger on the November 18th, 2012

THIS IS INSPIRED by the first A&L ad I ever saw, back when I was writing washing machine manuals in Michigan. Then I came upon a wondrous self-promotion for the advertising agency of my dreams.

HR people are probably blackballing me as you read it.

A&L

The 18-month job interview

Posted in Uncategorized by CopyBlogger on the September 7th, 2012

LAST WEDNESDAY I WAS OFFERED A JOB AT BROOKSTONE.  It was suspiciously similar to what I’d been doing there as a freelancer since last February, only for a little less money and a few more hours. So of course I snapped it up like a starving  trout. Now I appear before you an employed man, a changed man:

                  Dave, a bum no more.

DAVE, A BUM NO MORE

Officially the title is a mouthful–”Copywriter – Home Products & SEO.” It sizes up about the same, I guess.

But having a full time job with a real commitment is so very different.

When I was just out of college in the 1980s, the world pretty much insisted that I acquire credit cards. Merchants and banks were oddly reassured by plastic, and wouldn’t accept my identity or my money without it. And that’s what the job thing reminds me of. People want to know whose corporate  livery you’re wearing. Tell them you work for yourself sporadically tapping out website copy, and they’re so damned kind. Politely interested, a little hopeful for you, but sensitive that they might hurt your feelings. Like someone drawing attention to a handicap.

And loan officers, don’t get me started about loan officers. Or recruiters.

How many phone screenings have started out with some bubbleheaded HR newb asking, “Why did you leave your last job?” They never once tired of it, clumsily hoping to uncover the stolen silverware or grievous flaw that lets them cross you off an overcrowded candidate list. I got so sick of being a suspect, not a prospect.

Really, it’s surprising that only two-and-a-half years have gone by since Deluxe “eliminated my job.” Believe me, it seemed a lot longer. Pushing 50 in a terrible economy, I wondered if I would ever have a full time job again. Fear was a very real thing for me, with a wife and a kid and a house. So every day I kept coming to Brookstone with my contractor’s badge, trying to prove myself and wondering what the others had that I didn’t.

It was like a very long interview, and I held my breath every minute of it.

But hopefully some of that is behind me now, and a world of benefits and belonging and normalcy will be mine again … at least until ennui sets in and I become a bored wage slave once more. I can hardly wait.

April hollers bring May dollars

Posted in Uncategorized by CopyBlogger on the May 22nd, 2012

A GLOOMY APRIL held little promise of gainful employment, but I’m pleased to report that I am once again earning money. Staff departures at Brookstone and a little networking with my old supervisor there resulted in some temporary work. Since May 1, I have been putting in about 30 hours a week on various copy projects.

And, true to the “When it rains, it pours” law of the universe … I’ve also filled the time with a little proofreading for School Specialty, a local division of Delta Education. They market educational materials and curricula to schools all over the country.

A full-time job would be great, but the cash flow is certainly welcome. No one needs me to detail just how bad the job market is these days. Hopefully this gig will last a while and I can keep the job search going. More anon.

Tales from the copy crypt – vol. 2

Posted in Uncategorized by CopyBlogger on the March 15th, 2012

MASTORS & SERVANT – VERTICAL NEWSLETTER PROGRAM (2003-2004)

M&S nwsltr-montage

NEWSLETTERS ARE CRIMINALLY UNDERRATED. Most people evaluating a portfolio don’t look twice at them, but to me they’re a writer’s decathlon. Can you do research? Digest complex issues and information? Conceptualize headline, graphic and content as an integrated message? Or do you just hold your nose and take the easy way out, flowing in whatever brain dump the client gives you? Here’s a successful but rarely-seen project I did at Stal-McLane (Manchester, NH) on behalf of Mastors & Servant, a Rhode Island insurance broker specializing in risk management for businesses.

The 11-issue run of this newsletter began with a deceptively simple brief: Mastors & Servant wanted to position itself not as a peddler of insurance policies, but as a risk management partner that helped general and construction clients anticipate problems that often cripple or ruin businesses. Mastors & Servant’s value-added expertise would be highlighted in a quarterly newsletter featuring a thoughtful, soft-sell approach.

That meant a lot of groundwork: coming up with a newsletter name, setting the grid and its standard elements, fleshing out the sparse client notes with Internet research and calls, laying out the articles, establishing a B2B tone of voice for general or construction audiences. Not to mention learning how to sound like an insurance expert.

Here’s a sample spread of Insurance Quarterly (IQ) and its “Thoughtful ideas for working smarter and safer.” The design was by my colleague Stephen Smith.

M&S gen-nwsltr-spread

I enjoy this kind of work, even the (often thankless) task of ghostwriting editorials for top managers who have nothing to say. In this case, I’d usually just get a topic from our contact at Mastors & Servant and write the editorial in a C-level tone of voice with a few of the company buzzwords sprinkled in. Once we had the general version of the newsletter worked out, Stephen and I would spin off a construction version for the contractor market, using a different color scheme and changing the sidebar elements to address specialized subjects such as performance bonding.

Everything was going along just fine with our little 4-page newsletter, printed double-sided on 11 x 17 paper, until the client requested an additional feature-length story. Rather than add an extra four-page signature, we created a double-sided insert on 8-1/2 x 11 paper:

M&S con-nwsltr-insert

The insert actually gave us very nice flexibility for mixing and matching handouts to different audiences. Now, a word about design.

When I was starting out as an editor for a Detroit trade association, I read everything I could by publication design experts like Jan V. White and a cranky old newsletter guru named Ed Arnold. So even today, I believe that the writer’s job is about communicating information … using techniques such as sidebars, pullout (lift) quotes, subheads and bold lead-ins.

What’s funny is that every few years some new buzz phrase comes along that re-packages this stuff. I remember when it was called “information mapping” at Whirlpool, a client of mine back in the late 1980s. Nowadays, everybody has an SEO or User Experience expert. But most of it is just fundamentals that people knew long ago.

Anyway, this newsletter proved to be a very practical sales tool for Mastors & Servant during its two-year run. Salespeople used the articles to sell insurance coverage in all its varieties, and electronic versions in PDF or online text were easily shared to enhance the agency’s image as a thought leader in risk management. It’s the kind of unsung, hard-working stuff I’m proud of.

TALES FROM THE COPY CRYPT is a look back at lesser-known projects from Dave Conley’s 25-year career as copywriter, editor and marketing strategist. To see other samples, visit daveconleyportfolio.com.

My strangest project ever

Posted in Uncategorized by CopyBlogger on the February 27th, 2012

IF I WERE A PULP DETECTIVE, the story might start like this:

I was staring out at a blustery fall afternoon in Amsterdam, watching the yellow trams as they rolled by and occasionally belched grungy drug tourists out onto the Leidseplein. My phone rang and I picked up. “U sprecht met Dave Conley. Ja, Maartje?”

Our shapely receptionist laughed in my ear, her English as perfect as a Valley Girl’s. “Dave, you’re so funny when you try to talk Dutch! A lady on the line says you did a brochure they want updated.”

“When you know two sentences of Dutch and one of them is your address,” I said defensively, “opportunities to show off are limited. Put the lady on.”

That’s how it began. A simple patch job and a day trip to Geneva, billing a few shekels for the greater glory of Anderson & Lembke Europe. Little did I know I’d soon be caught in the middle of an international incident, pinned wriggling like a laboratory frog between an irate ex-husband and a lady in distress …

Okay, enough sepia tone.

When I was working at Anderson & Lembke’s New York office in 1992, we landed a division of Digital Equipment Corporation as a client. Part of the agency’s campaign proposal was a series of white papers on computer technology in the financial industry. So after the business was won, I and Steve Di Santis were dispatched on our first big international business trip — gathering input from Digital specialists in London, Zurich and Geneva.

It was pretty heady stuff for a late bloomer from Detroit who’d been writing washer manuals a couple years before. But white papers are the kind of detail-heavy, long-copy stuff I’m good at, so before too long we had three completed pieces. Including one about private banking for the Digital business center in Geneva. (Click the link to see a little more of it.)

Here’s a sample page — the very page, in fact, that would lead to a screaming scene in Geneva.

Digital Brochure

“ZIS IS DE GUY YOU’RE FOAKING?”

A couple years later, I was overseas at A&L’s European office when that telephone rang. My lady caller explained that she had worked at Digital with my colleague Robert Swartz, before DEC’s private banking group was purchased by another firm. She was based in Geneva and wanted to modify the Digital brochure for her new company.

As she described it, the job would be simple. Change the logo and replace all references to Digital in the copy, then insert a new testimonial case story involving one of her clients, a prestigious private bank in Geneva. It was a one-off — not a new account, just a quick cash job that attracted little interest within my office. Rather than setting up an account team, I would fly solo and get what was needed to revise copy, handle approvals and put it into production.

At Genève-Aéroport, I was greeted by a friendly woman in her late 20s who looked rather like my old girlfriend. She was originally from Pittsburgh, and we enjoyed the quick rapport sometimes experienced by expatriates who don’t get to talk American much. As she explained in the cab ride over, we would be talking with the bank’s chief executive and his IT leaders … a considerable honor, given that the guy was worth enough to buy our agency syndicate with no more than a couple of phone calls.

The meeting went okay. Old-money High Street location, traditional granite bank building like a Calvinist church, lots of marble and gleaming hardwood inside. The bank president and his staff were remarkably gracious with their time. I didn’t speak German or French, so my client handled translations when their English faltered.

I added nothing of value to the meeting, and felt like pork sausage dropped in a tin of caviar. But clients often want the writer to be on hand so they can capture that elusive something-or-other, so I took notes and came away with a hazy sense of the work ahead. We shook hands all around and said thanks, then I and the lady walked down the big granite steps to a taxi at the nearby cab stand.

Which is when all hell broke loose.

I noticed a dark-haired man in a business suit looking into our cab from the street side, opposite the cabbie’s seat on the right. My recollection is that I thought he must have gotten his parked car bumped by the cab, so he had an issue with the driver. Or maybe he just wanted to ask when the next cab would arrive.

But suddenly he was glaring at us in the back of the cab.

“Why didn’t you call me?” he shouted. “Is this your boyfriend?”

My client told the cabbie to go, in German. But the dumb son of a bitch just sat there. Meanwhile, this swarthy Italian man begins screaming at my client, demanding to know why she didn’t call. So it was up to me to ask the stupid question: “You know this guy?”

“He’s my ex-husband.”

Oh boy.

Long story short, the next five minutes were at first unbearable and then infuriating. While they shouted back and forth, I tried playing the Voice of Reason … explaining that I wasn’t her boyfriend, holding up my notebook and pointing to the bank to demonstrate that we had just finished a business meeting. But if you’ve ever been in the middle of a domestic dispute, you know that trying to be reasonable just makes you a juicier target. So the guy starts getting really nasty, cussing at me in Chico Marxish English and accusing me of sexual predations I could only WISH I enjoyed during my bachelor years in Holland.

It was sort of flattering to a fat ugly guy like me, but it said more about just how irrationally jealous this jerk must have been as a husband. During a chivalrous moment I thought of getting out of the cab and settling things the old-fashioned way, but the lady asked me not to. And all the while, that blankety-blank cab driver just sat there ignoring every order to drive on. In English. In French. In German.

Eventually the ex-husband calmed a little, and she promised to see him at the airport’s car rental stand at 5 pm sharp. He kept repeating all sorts of dire threats if she wasn’t there, and she kept saying she would be there. Finally we drove off.

You might think there’d be a lot to talk about after something like that. But she discussed a few meeting details and then kind of shut down, and I didn’t do much more than ask if she was okay. Eventually we got to the airport, and I asked her if she wanted me to go along. I could take a later flight.

She said no. “I’m not meeting him. I’ve got my car in the parking structure. Sorry about all this. I’ll be in touch about the brochure.”

I got out and walked into the airport, checking over my shoulder at every step for outraged ex-husbands. But he wasn’t there, and I made my flight back to Amsterdam.

AFTERMATH

During the meeting my client had promised to send over some additional material for the brochure revisions, so I waited to hear from her. But the call never came.

It must have been a couple months later when my bookkeepers started nagging me to finish the job, so we could bill the travel costs. I called the company and asked for her. Another marketing guy came on the line, and said she didn’t work there anymore. So I asked if they still wanted the brochure, and he said sure.

I cobbled together a new case story, we changed the logos and company references, and I faxed over a revised layout. They approved it with only minor changes and asked us to send the electronic files with our bill. Done.

Since then I’ve often wondered about the lady in distress. Did she go back to America? Move somewhere else in Europe? Remarry the guy? There’s no telling. But I hope it worked out for her. Meanwhile, I’ve never been able to hear the phrases “Swiss bank” or “private banking” without recalling the craziness of that day.

The guts, if not the glory

Posted in Uncategorized by CopyBlogger on the January 26th, 2012
"Impulse" packaging written for Brookstone. Click for product.

"Impulse" packaging written for Brookstone. Click for product.

A FACT OF LIFE for freelance writers is that they often end up doing scutwork – jobs the in-house copy staff doesn’t have the time, interest or specialization for. While a few creative gunslingers do indeed command exorbitant fees to saunter in and mastermind glamorous campaigns or high-pressure account pitches, many of us are just hired hands who chew away at backlogged projects that are the guts of the business. Sure, the work is unlikely to end up at the front of the portfolio – but at least it builds client relationships, not to mention cashflow.

Case in point: these samples from my 11 months freelancing at Brookstone.

Brookstone PR sheet -- click for product.

Brookstone PR sheet -- click for product.

Between February 2011 and January 2012, Brookstone gave me a quiet cubicle and a pleasing range of duties: writing feature bullets for in-store displays and packaging, doing press kits for new products, and performing open-heart surgery on literally thousands of product pages so that the manufacturers’ abominable Chinglish copy could somehow become credible and appealing.

Along the way I learned about the breathtaking number of ways that consumers can blow money on iPad/iPhone/iPod accessories – ranging from Nappa leather carrying cases and overengineered docking devices, to an armada of radio controlled toys you can operate via smartphone. And I also got to extoll the virtues of computer-controlled massage chairs, memory foam Swedish pillows, alarm clocks that roll just beyond your reach when you’re trying to hit the snooze button, $8,000 automatic watch winders, roguish hideaway home bars plus a slew of other costly faradiddles … all of which reminded me just how vital and imperative the instinct to “Amaze your friends” remains in us all, long after we give up comic books and our Marshall Brodien Magic Kit.

iPad accessories -- PR kit, Spring 2011

iPad accessories -- PR kit, Spring 2011

Looking through my files three weeks later, I see mountains of work that I would have a difficult time displaying to anyone except another wonkish copywriter. But I do have some very pretty paystubs to show for it.

Life is a thrill ride … and I’m gonna be sick

Posted in Uncategorized by CopyBlogger on the September 27th, 2011

BambooRide

My life in a nutshell, as captured by an automated camera at the Story Land amusement park in New Hampshire. Ben and my wife Elsa are clearly having a good time — and two out of three ain’t bad.

Robley Feland: the man who did “Brown’s Job”

Posted in Uncategorized by CopyBlogger on the September 17th, 2011
As seen in "The Wedge," BBDO newsletter, circa 1920. Click for text.

Originally in "The Wedge," BBDO newsletter, circa 1920. Click for text.

LONG AGO, A BOOK called The 100 Greatest Advertisements: Who Wrote Them and What They Did introduced students of the ad game to “Brown’s Job,” a legendary piece of writing that wasn’t exactly an ad — and wasn’t by a copywriter. Ninety years later, it still intrigues bloggers and digerati. To see why, read the text here courtesy of Artie Isaac’s site.

Lacking a product, selling proposition or even an obvious point, “Brown’s Job” still intrigues with its vaguely chiding tale of a brilliant company man whose worth was never fully appreciated until his departure. It first appeared in the house newsletter of  Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborn (today’s BBDO).

The writer? Not BBDO legend Bruce Barton, the first copywriter to cross over into mainstream celebrity in America. No, it was the company treasurer… a man named Robley Feland.

Since the first time I read “Brown’s Job,” I have wondered about Robley Feland. Maybe you have too, if you’ve found your way to this entry. So instead of adding my own take on what “Brown’s Job” really means, I’ll just share the scraps I’ve found about the man behind it.

(If you want interpretation too, here’s one from my old boss, Rob O’Keefe. I introduced “Brown’s Job” to him some years ago, and as a recruitment expert he examined it through his own prism. Which is what everybody does with “Brown’s Job.” Some say it’s about corporate stupidity, while others say it’s about job marketing or branding.)

WHO WAS ROBLEY FELAND?

For all its virtues, the Internet is unkind to those who must be digitized without profit. Robley Feland died without fanfare on Nov. 14, 1952, and my online searches revealed very little about him.  But after several years of occasional curiosity, I found my answers offline at a used bookstore: The Huckster’s Revenge, a 1959 memoir by Fred Manchee, who succeeded Feland as BBDO treasurer.

A dreadful book, The Huckster’s Revenge is Fred Manchee’s public rebuttal to the scathing Madison Avenue critiques that were popular fare at the time. It’s also a vanity memoir by a man of middling abilities who wanted to commemorate his agency career upon retiring. And some of the most vivid parts are about one Robley Feland.

What we learn is that Robley Feland (no surprise) was a lot like Brown himself — “a brilliant creative man, philosopher and financial man all rolled up in one.” Feland, like David Ogilvy, was famous for his memos and his axioms, and they are widely quoted in Manchee’s book. (Many are so Ogilvy-like in their flashy erudition and persnickety tone, it’s stunning.  Perhaps there is a certain overqualified personality type that naturally gravitates toward advertising.)

He seems to have been a man of conspicuous civility. In one anecdote, Feland recounts his discovery that a colleague of many years went home every evening to feed and wash a severely  handicapped child who was “a mindless lump.”  He recalled that discovery every time he felt tempted to snap at co-workers, mindful that his harsh words might be the last straw for someone carrying unseen burdens.

Feland had a wicked sense of humor, too. As treasurer at the George Batton Company, he had to fire two young employees when a prank backfired. As a gesture he gave them a piece of paper with an agency address and suggested they apply there. Quickly they interviewed and were hired. Upon reporting to work, they saw Robley Feland — a colleague once more, because their “new employer” was merging with Batton to form BBDO.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll just get out of the way at this point and provide some direct quotes.

From Bruce Barton:

“Robley Feland had one of the most interesting and stimulating minds of any man I have ever known. He was a college man – two years in the University of Kentucky … the rest of his vast fund of information was self-acquired. He read French and Latin and some Greek…

The imprint of his mind and fingers will continue to influence the operations of this business and guide its progress for a long time to come. Ten years from now somebody will speak up in a conference and say: “I remember what Robley used to think about this.” Or “that reminds me of something Robley wrote years ago.”

From a Feland memo:

“I do not mind being cursed for trying to hold down payroll and other controllable expenses. That could be a source of pride. I do greatly dread being cursed for not trying hard enough, for yielding when I should have been firm, for being agreeable when expenses could have been held down by being disagreeable. For that I would feel shame forever.”

To a new office manager who wasn’t doing enough cost-cutting:

“When James the Sixth of Scotland became James the First of England, he moved from Edinburgh Castle to London. Immediately after crossing the line from Scotland into England he encountered two vagrants by the wayside. He knighted one and had the other hanged, just to show that he was really King of England.

“This is a much more thorough job than you have been doing to date. You have knighted a lot of people, but you as yet have hung no vagrants!”

From a memo on signs:

“That sign on the second floor conference room reading “Keep Out!” is just a little too blunt and rude for an office in which some of the people are ladies and gentlemen. I would suggest any words that can be devised that will be a little less like a farmer’s sign to wandering hunters, or something on the private entrance to a little dinky factory.

“The words “In Use” could be used, or even the words “Directors’ Room” or “Board Meeting.” But “Keep Out” is not exactly redolent of old world courtesy, unless you want to go the whole way and put “This Means U.”

Another memo, about agency organizations:

“They want the dues. That is all they want. And all we get is the privilege of paying them. They are like lobster pots. The lobster is safe enough until he crawls in. Then let him try to get out. You keep on paying dues, year after year, for precisely the whole of nothing.”

“Another request to join another association and pay dues … for many years I have kept two thumbs, eight fingers and ten toes in this dyke, but here comes another hole. For goodness sake, put one of your thumbs in it!”

Fred Manchee, on Feland’s last agency visit after retirement:

Robley Feland had cancer. He knew it. Everybody in the office knew it. Robley was given permission by his doctors to go to his home in New Jersey to vote in the 1952 Presidential election. On the way home from the hospital he stopped at the office.

I must digress long enough to tell you that, as treasurer of the company, he had approved installation of time clocks to conform to the Wages and Hours Act during World War II. Acccurate time records were not required for employees earning over a certain salary, but to forestall any feeling of discrimination, everybody punched the clock including Robley Feland. Picture him on this, his last departure from BBDO. Too weak to walk alone, he was leaning on an attendant for support. To look at him was to know he was in pain. All eyes were glued on him as he approached the time clock. Out of habit, he reached for his card, dropped it into the slot. Somehow he summoned up enough strength to give the clock a whack that could be heard from one end of the office to the other.

Robley Feland did not turn around. If he had, he would not have seen a dry eye.

And that’s a perfect exit for the man who wrote “Brown’s Job.” It dovetails eerily with the last lines in Robley Feland’s little masterpiece … an ad that wasn’t exactly an ad, about a man who left behind a job that many coveted but none could do so well.

Don’t they know that Brown’s chair and his desk, with the map under the glass top, and his pay envelope, are not Brown’s job? Don’t they know that they might as well apply to the Methodist Church for John Wesley’s job?

Brown’s former employers know it. Brown’s job is where Brown is.

The Geocities diaspora, and my rite of return

Posted in Uncategorized by CopyBlogger on the April 9th, 2011

IT WAS BACK IN 1996 when I took The Dave Conley Portfolio online. A year or so earlier I had paid an Amsterdam outfit called Lost Boys Interactive (they’re still around) to make a CD-ROM portfolio, but results were mixed and making duplicates in America was difficult. So I became a settler on the digital frontier, a-scannin’ and a-buildin’  Web pages as a resident of Geocities.

If I am vaguely contemptuous of social media these days, it is because all the Facebook and Twitter stuff seems like a dumbed-down version of the Geocities sites I and millions of tech-illiterate hairdressers were cobbling together way back when. Honestly, I have many friends who now carry important-sounding titles as VPs or professors of social media … and it seems very dodgy to me. It’s new enough to be sexy for corporate squares, amorphous enough to sell as a paradigm shift, yet easy enough to be mastered by preteen girls with pagers. Congrats, friends. Like they say in “Dilbert,” I admire your ability to get paid for this. Now everybody’s friending and following — instead of bragging about blog traffic, and before that guestbooks. Same as it ever was, with a new flavor in a couple of years.

But I digress. A couple of years ago, when Geocities was getting shut down by Yahoo, I had to scramble to migrate over and keep a presence for job hunting. So I created the new Dave Conley Portfolio and this blog, resigned to the prospect of losing some of the old stuff. Which is why I was pleased to learn just yesterday about reocities.com, an outfit that took on the awesome task of trying to mirror as much of Geocities’ 38 million pages as possible before it was lost. And sure enough, some of my stuff is in there. Not all, and not in a perfect format thanks to the advertising that ReoCities runs to help defray its costs, but enough to spark a little nostalgic pride.

Hey, here’s my original homepage.

Or my first page about meeting my future wife.

Here’s that group of B-to-B direct mail pieces I couldn’t get fixed on the new site.

And, of course, my cats. Because what is a Geocities site without an idiotic, anthropomorphic pets page?

So if you too were a Geocities customer whose youthful indiscretions included a celebrity tribute page or a pet shrine or a cache of scanned Instamatic family photos, check out ReoCities. Your first and best online self might still have a home out there, somewhere in that untwittered void we so amusingly called cyberspace.

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