Don’t sleep on these teams… or do.

Virginia beat Texas Tech in overtime to claim the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship last night. Or so I heard. The game tipped off at 9:26 PM EDT. I had to wake my kids at 6 AM this morning. by the time the clock struck zero, I was fast asleep.

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I’m sure it was “one for the ages” or some other nugget of hyperbole from Jim Nantz (who seems to think every word that comes from his mouth is pure gold). But at my age, my beauty rest is more important. (To be clear, I’m not gaining any ground in the beauty department, just trying to keep the ugly at bay.)

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But even if I didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn today, why bother with live feed? It’s a Netflix/YouTube world now. This morning, on my bus ride to work, I was able to watch a 12-minute recap that showed all the field goals from the game. So what did I really miss by not staying up an extra two hours, other than a gazillion Spike-Samuel-Barkley commercials, a bunch of free throw attempts, the always-scintillating “refs going to the monitor for five minutes” and maybe a few Bill Raftery “with the kiss” lines? I’m good.

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There’s no need to watch what happens live anymore. I’ll wait for the recap movie.

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Beer for the people, by the people

Great Lakes Brewing Co. is one of the original craft beer breweries. Based in Cleveland, they’ve been around for more than 30 years.

They recently introduced a new year-round IPA.

Last year, they introduced something even better: an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), which means all of their employees are now employee-owners. It was a classy move on the part of the founders, brothers Patrick and Daniel Conway.

“This wasn’t designed to be a liquidity event for Pat and Dan. It wasn’t designed to bring capital into the company. This is 100 percent focused on putting an ESOP in place so that our employees can share in the upside of Great Lakes.”

Great Lakes CEO Bill Boor, in this article.

The people portrayed in the artwork on the new IPA bottle label and six-pack carrier are folks who work at Great Lakes. One is an acquaintance of mine. Lisa Farmer is the regional sales manager for Great Lakes in the Cincinnati area.

Lisa’s third from the left… writing up an order.

Lisa’s been working at Great Lakes for 16 years, calling on restaurants, bars and supermarkets, and working promo events that typically take place after normal working hours. Now, that loyalty is being rewarded.

Being on beer labels and coasters is pretty cool. Being an employee owner is even cooler.

Several other beer companies have also gone the ESOP route: Deschutes, Harpoon Brewery, Left Hand, New Glarus, Alaskan Brewing Co., Voodoo Brewery, Odell Brewing (partial ownership), and New Belgium and Switchback, which are wholly-owned ESOP companies. (Source.) Think about that the next time you’re buying some brewskies… all other things being equal, why not spend your dollars in a way that benefits the people doing the work to bring that beer your way?

Meet the artist

I had lunch with a world-famous artist yesterday. OK, he’s not world-famous yet, but he’s certainly nationally-famous. More importantly, he’s one of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet.

photo credit: Corrie Schaffeld, Cincinnati Business Courier

Keith Neltner and I worked together at a Cincinnati ad agency (ahem, “design studio”) for about five years, more than a decade ago. He was a brilliant graphic designer and I was a hack copywriter… your classic Odd Couple storyline. Keith’s skill level, his talent, his “eye”… is off the charts. Yet it’s matched by his work ethic, which came from spending his entire childhood (and beyond) working on his family’s small farm in Northern Kentucky.

Keith hung his own shingle several years ago – Neltner Small Batch is the name of his company. He’s still working his magic, but instead of doing it for the P&Gs of the world, he’s doing it for smaller, more craft-oriented companies like LIC.

Keith also does artwork for musicians, including the album layout for Shooter Jennings’ most recent release.

Which is great, but I still think his art is underappreciated because it’s typically intertwined with commerce. However, a recent project that Keith and his Neltner Small Batch collective worked on is pure heart and pure art. They (Keith, Tom Post, Chris Dye, Andi Bussard and Andy Sohoza) created a 63-foot wall mural in graphic novel style to share stories from holocaust survivors at Cincinnati’s Holocaust & Humanity Center.

Photo credit: Hailey Bollinger, CityBeat

You can read more about it in Cincinnati CityBeat , the Cincinnati Enquirer (and the Cincinnati Business Courier if you have an account).

I feel like this is just the start of the next phase of Keith’s career. Stay tuned…

Where art meets commerce

On Thursday, a bunch of dudes met up for breakfast at a Panera in Newport, KY. It was the visual arts equivalent of the Algonquin Round Table… designers and illustrators and photographers, oh my. (They let a few writer types hang out too… including a hack named dubbatrubba.)

I was fortunate enough to work with many of these fine fellows back in my ad agency days. They’re an amazingly talented bunch… and super-nice as well (sometimes those two qualities can seem mutually exclusive).

A lot of the folks who attended the breakfast are self-employed. Some by their own choice; others have had their hand forced by ad agency layoffs. Freelance is a tough row to hoe, especially in the Fiverr age where it can be a “who can do this cheapest?” race to the bottom. Not only do you have to be a standout in your chosen field, but you also have to be a salesperson, a client coordinator, a project manager and an accountant. You’re on your own for healthcare. And vacation? No work, no pay. As one of the gents there put it “I’m always on vacation until the phone rings.”

My friends do mostly commercial work, but you can’t commodify what they do. It’s art. Period.

L to R, top to bottom: Rob Warnick, Chris Dye, Brian Steege, Keith Neltner, Tom Post, Keith Neltner (again), Andy Sohoza, Doug Best, Todd Lipscomb.

Cutting the cord

We dumped cable. Dropped it like a two-foot putt. Because I’m tired of paying a ton of money for it each month when I rarely watch it and the kids almost never watch it. I’m also tired of cable companies that offer better deals to new customers than to loyal customers. 

I’ve considered cutting the cord before, but never really found a Sling/Hulu/Netflix combo that had all the channels we wanted… live sports were using the missing link.

But YouTube TV has most of the channels we watch (no HGTV… much to my wife’s dismay… and my delight) and costs $40 a month. We dumped the TV and phone part of our cable “triple play,” kept our internet and signed up for YouTube TV. Now we’re saving about $80 every month. Sure, the picture isn’t quite as crystal-clear, and sometimes there’s a second or two of buffering, but that’s a small price to pay for paying a much smaller price. 

Cable providers are going to have to come up with a more enticing package than “get it cheap for a year, then pay through both nostrils.” If not, they’ll go the way of Blockbuster Video stores. 

Cornering the market on weird names

Believe it or not, I actually have to pay money to operate this blog. But I do it gladly so that you, the few, the proud, the dubbatrubba blog faithful, can get your semi-weekly dose of semi-coherent ramblings. You’re welcome (not sure if I should punctuate this with a question mark or an exclamation point…maybe I’ll do both)?!  

The company from which I bought the dubbatrubba.com domain (surprisingly, there was no bidding war…) is always trying to sell “extras” to me. Their latest pitch gave me pause: 

Whoa, I can actually get rubbadubba.com too? I’m thinking I should lock it down, and corner the market on goofy names. Perhaps later I can sell rubbadubba.com at a profit to Three Men In A Tub, LLC. 

But what really got me was the fact that “dubbatrubba.com” isn’t considered a premium domain, yet “batrepellant.com” is. 

Guess I’ll have to spend the weekend figuring out other ways to “monetize” my site. 

Save a forest without chaining yourself to a tree

This was dumped on my driveway recently:

So I’m dredging up a post from 2015 that’s still relevant today.

Every year, someone would drop a two-ton Yellow Pages book on our front porch… and they’d drop one on the porch of every other house on our street. And on every street in the neighborhood, the city, and the world for all I know. Seriously? Who uses the Yellow Pages print edition anymore? Marty McFly? Are they looking up “Betamax Repair Shop” in it?

BetaMax

Are they trying to hire a private investigator?

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Our gargantuan edition went directly from our front porch to the recycle bin, just like it has for the past  decade. But the prime directive of the green living trifecta is “reduce” (then reuse, with recycle as the last, least efficient option). So I found out that we can opt out of Yellow Pages print delivery. You can too. “Let your fingers do the walking” (archaic video reference is below) on your computer keyboard, and sign up here: https://www.yellowpagesoptout.com/.

Tell your neighbors about the opt-out option too – based on the heft of the YP tome, we can save a tree or two per house, easily.

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Art for art’s sake, not for Martin’s sake.

Band of Horses was in town last night, playing a sold out show at Bogart’s. Having seen them seven times already, in seven different venues, in four different cities (including an amazing acoustic set/electric set show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville), I decided to sit this one out. So did my friend Dale Doyle (the original d2), who has joined me at five of those gigs. But Dale’s an artist, a graphic designer by trade, so he made an oversized gig poster just for grins.

Simply brilliant!

I had the pleasure of working with Dale for five years at Landor (where I also worked with other amazing artists like Keith Neltner and Tommy Sheehan). Dale was at Landor for 23 years, working his way up from entry-level designer to Executive Creative Director, thanks to his skills and his dedication to the craft. His reward for all those years of service? He was unceremoniously dumped earlier this summer. Call it layoffs or budget cuts, or a “reduction in force” or a “restructuring”… to paraphrase Shakespeare, bullsh*t by any other name would still smell as stinky. (Sorry Big Willie!)

Yes, Landor’s Cincinnati office was struggling to make their numbers, and that’s part of the equation. But the other part is why their “numbers” were probably unattainable in the first place. Landor is merely a cog in the universe of WPP, a publicly-traded company that’s the world’s largest advertising conglomerate. It owns scads of well-known ad agencies, brand consultancies, PR firms, media buying companies and digital agencies. For 33 years, WPP was run by Martin Sorrell, a man whose ambition was outstripped only by his ego. A shark who swallowed up other ad agencies whole, usually via hostile takeovers. A man whom advertising legend David Ogilvy called “an odious little sh*t.” A person who could squeeze blood out of a turnip, and was never satisfied with the revenue numbers and profit margins of the dozens of companies and hundreds of offices under his thumb. Last year, “Sir Martin” (he was knighted in his native England) earned 70 million pounds. His net worth is listed as 495 million pounds.

Artist’s representation of Sir Martin

Creative artists like Dale are a dime a dozen to him, and if it came down to keeping a Dale or earning an extra nickel, he’d take the latter every time.

Dale did get a severance, so he has a few months to figure out his next move. He also has a freedom he hasn’t enjoyed in two decades. The freedom to create art whenever the muse strikes. To use his talents for self-expression rather than marketing campaigns. To make a band poster just because. You can’t put a price tag on that.

Oh, and what of our friend Sir Martin? He was sacked by the WPP board earlier this summer over allegations of “personal misconduct.”

 

 

 

Writing is editing

This coffee mug pretty much sums up my work life over the past couple of decades:

“This tastes bitter…”

HT to my old ad agency pal BJ Hicks for sending the photo my way.

Thanks (is worth) a million!

Marketing doesn’t have to be all algorithms, browser cookies and geo-tracking. The human touch will always be more memorable.

A few weeks ago, we needed a new faucet installed in our kitchen, and the shutoff valves below needed to be replaced as well. (I can do the former, but the latter is well beyond my DIY skills.) I found a local plumbing company that came highly recommended on NextDoor (like a Facebook for neighborhoods). Everyone I talked to, from the office manager who fielded my initial call to the plumber who came to our house, was friendly. About a week after the service call, I received a thank you card from them via “snail mail.”

I’ve used plenty of different plumbing companies over the years, and this is the first one to send me an honest-to-goodness thank you. On paper! In the mail! Who does that anymore? You’d better believe they’re on speed dial for all future repairs. And while robots may take over many jobs in the coming years, I don’t think I’ll ever trust a Roomba lookalike to replace two water shutoff valves under my kitchen sink. So the plumber’s investment in a single, solitary thank you card will earn them hundreds of dollars. (But not anytime soon, I hope!)

Yesterday I got the new Wussy album What Heaven is Like in the mail from the band’s record label, Shake It. Included with the CD that I ordered were a hand-written thank-you note and a postcard.

It probably took about 30 seconds to scribble out the thank you note, and another 10 to grab the promo postcard (clearly an homage to Springsteen’s debut album) and package it up with the album. Extra time in the era of efficiency – would Jeff Bezos approve? Doubtful.

But those 40 seconds will pay off for years to come, in the goodwill they generate, in the warm fuzzy feeling you get from “hey, they took the time to thank me by name… that’s cool!” Shake It started as a local label, releasing albums by artists that they were passionate about, before branching out to set up a bricks and mortar record store too.  A record label and a record store… talk about tilting at millennial windmills! They know they can’t go toe-to-toe with Amazon on pricing, or compete with Spotify on music delivery. But by providing a personal touch, by caring about the music, engaging true fans, helping them dig deeper into their passions and exposing them to new artists, they can carve out a nice niche for themselves:

We carry some mainstream releases, but we specialize in independent labels from the obvious to the obscure – Chicago post-punk art-rock to Ethiopian boog-a-loo and all stops in between – rockabilly, vintage soul, r&b & blues, punk/hardcore, classic country & the best of the new breed, 60’s garage & psych, reggae/dub/rocksteady & vintage ska, krautrock, creative hip-hop & electronica, tons of straight ahead rock n’ roll & “alternative”, plus vintage bop, cool & avant garde jazz, cult soundtracks, Afrobeat/funk, “difficult listening” and much more. We’re introducing new releases and back catalog items every day, so there’s always something new in the bins.

You can keep your algorithms. I’ll stick with the handshakes.

Reviews of the new album are here and here(this one from my friend Gil Kaufman, who writes for Billboard). You can order it from Shake It here.