Ad astra

Oh, yeah, and with everything else going on in my life…I’m starting a new job. I haven’t been talking too loudly about it, because since I am still at Asher Agency for a few more days. It seemed unprofessional to go crowing about my sweet new gig when I was still working as hard as I could to serve current clients. But enough people have asked me about it, I figured, well…time to crow about my sweet new gig.

 

As of June 21st I will be assuming the role of Creative Director at AdLab Advertising, filling the stanky, musty, fungus-ridden shoes of Shane Albahrani (his feet, dude…) as he transitions into the role he was born to play, the full-time radio voice of your Ft. Wayne Komets. He’s been running the show at AdLab for years. Now he tosses the torch to my hands, to hold high. (Habs fans will recognize the paraphrasing there.)

 

And while this new gig will be really, really sweet (a corner office! FOR ME!!) it will be very different, as the client list for AdLab is a bit more personal, local, downright homey, compared to some of the larger clients I’ve handled for the past three years. Not that Asher doesn’t have some of those types of clients: 3RRC, Turnstone, FWCS…there are tons of campaigns I have been so very proud to work on for those clients, and others. But with the enormity of Subway and some of Asher’s higher education clients always looming, it will be quite a change to do something different. I’ll be trying my best to help AdLab grow, to elevate our profile, to expand our scope and capabilities. It’s exciting. It’s challenging. And as a competitor, I love it. I can’t wait to roll my sleeves up and get to work.

 

As for my time at Asher, I can’t say enough good things. Dan Schroeter and Kelly Gayer took in a completely inexperienced copywriter and gave him a shot. Tom Borne said “Okay, sounds good.” Into the frying pan I went, concepting, writing, casting, directing, and producing all manner of print, TV, and radio spots. Over the last year and a half, I’ve added digital video and content creation, working alongside talented individuals like Morgan McIntire and Sean O’Leary and crafted digital and social media campaigns with Anthony Juliano, Brandon Peat, Brandon Wolf, Anthony Boyer, and Caity Rose. (In fact, if you see a video for FWA, Indiana Tech, or FWCS pop up on your timeline, there’s a good chance I did it, and those folks all added their parts to the process to make it work.) It’s crazy to sit back and think about how many wonderful people I got to know and love within the walls of that building on Wayne and Fulton. My work wife Jenna, my loveable uncle Larry…hell, I could go on and on and not mention everyone who has made my time there so enjoyable. So I won’t even try.

 

And of course, there’s Motia. Her alter ego has appeared in many of my science-fantasy short stories here in this blog from time to time, but the real AJ Motia is a hundred times as powerful, brave, smart, and kind. It was she who initially told me “I don’t know if you’d be interested in the Asher copywriting gig. It’s sort of entry-level.” But she also knew what I wanted to do, and she has been my champion every step of the way.

 

Finally, there’s my Sweet Baby. She and I are sat here on a Saturday, discussing life and how wonderful things are and what a strange, often trying trip it’s been for the last 13 years or so in Ft. Wayne. And how it really does feel like home, and we never want to leave. And how we can do whatever we want. And we will. And we love you guys. Thanks.

 

Excelsior!

The Whisky Mystery

I arrived home on a snowy, blustery Northern Indiana evening to discover a parcel on my front porch. I love a mystery, and absolutely adore a puzzle. Knowing what was probably inside the large box, I whisked it inside, threw some crap off my dining room table, cut open the cardboard, and dug out what appeared to be a huge, fairly weighty tome. The thing was 14” by 14” and about 4.5” thick. Woof! And emblazoned upon the ‘cover’ was the seal of ‘The Aultmore Distilling Co.’ I took that to be a really good sign.

20160111_173600

Like a Guggenheim Bible…dedicated to BOOZE!

Upon closer inspection, of course, it was obvious that this object was not a real book. I opened the apparently magnetic flap on the cover and saw the mysterious (downright spooky) interior artwork and cover page. And behind that…the real good stuff.

20160111_172717

See, usually I prefer to pee myself AFTER I drink, thank you very much.

There was a neat little mini-book, really not much more than a pamphlet. The cover was sharp, and the paper thick, with that sort of rough, pulpy feel. Good stock. ‘The Mystery of the Buckie Road’ was the title, printed in gold leaf.

20160111_172740

That door either leads to whisky or grandpa’s old killin’ cellar.

Along with that was a fun-looking little cylinder with numbers etched into revolving tumblers. It was sturdy, made out of some sort of brass alloy. I’d read enough Dan Brown to recognize it as a cryptex.

20160111_173143

Or the oldest bike lock ever discovered.

I also found what at first glance seemed like a simple laser pointer. And it was, in part. There were two little buttons. The first activated a standard red laser. Okay. The second one…a single click produced a clear LED mini-flashlight beam. But when I pressed that one a second time, it switched to a dimmer blue glow. Curioser and curioser. I had a hunch why, but that would have to wait, because by now I figured I knew for sure what the real goodies were going to look like. And I wasn’t wrong.

20160111_173013

My cats were substantially less excited about the ghastly blue setting.

Behind the faux-wooden door flap, I discovered a bottle of 12-Year-Old single-malt scotch the color of honey and wheat: The Aultmore. NOW we were getting somewhere. And behind the booklet, a wee snifter-shaped glass (technically, a Glencairn Glass). How convenient!

20160111_203734

Hello, gorgeous…

Full disclosure time. Those that know me well enough are aware that I love a good Scotch Whisky. I get bottles of the stuff for Christmas, and it’s always fun to try a new label. Usually, I prefer the single-malts, but they can be a crapshoot, quite frankly. I know I’m pissing off some scotch purists, but there it is. With bottles as expensive as they tend to be, most folks don’t have the luxury of trying everything on the shelf. That being the case, we all have our favorites. And I have no problem admitting that I’ve always fancied a glass of Dewar’s White Label over some of the fancy, higher-end single-malts.

dewarswhitelabel175new__05897__44262.1358534145.1280.1280

Pictured: a ‘glass’ of Dewar’s.

“WAIT!” you cry. “DEWAR’S IS A BLEND!” It certainly is, and a wonderful one. There are other bottles in the same price range, and I’ve tried many…The Famous Grouse and Grant’s standing out alongside dark-horse favorites like Old Smuggler (seriously, not too shabby. You almost forget it can be had from a plastic bottle.) But Dewar’s is on my go-to list every time.

Sorry. Getting distracted thinking about all this booze. I’ll get back to that in the next blog entry. I’ll simply say that I was expecting a sample from the Dewar’s folks…but nothing quite as elaborate as this.

So, this mystery tome. It seemed obvious what my next steps were. The booklet held the key to the cryptex…and the cryptex itself held some additional mystery. It was really fairly exciting, a lot more adventurous than I’d anticipated for a simple whisky tasting.

I read the booklet in its entirety. Didn’t take long. It’s a tale about a mysterious old fisherman/smuggler/bootlegger leading the unnamed protagonist to discover the secrets of the distillery and whatnot. Nicely written, but not really groundbreaking.

20160111_173256

A story I’ll read to my grandchildren one day.

I returned to the front page, and shone my laser-pointer at the page, nearly tearing a hole in space-time. Crap. Forgot. Wrong button. Crimson light blazed through the dining room, boring cleanly through a cat (one down, one to go!) and nearly blinding me as it shone off the white paper. I clicked the other button until the faint blue light bled forth onto the page. And there I saw it.

20160111_180031

‘Saw what? Just looks like a regular ol’ page to me…’

Like some Scooby-Doo cartoon, or even better, some deleted scene from a Harry Potter film, faint, glowing numbers materialized. It was awesome. I figured I’d find something like that, but it was so cool to have my suspicions confirmed.

20160111_180041

‘So what am I looking for, some sort–OH! Oh, that’s pretty bad-ass!’

I swept carefully through the booklet, making sure not to miss any clues. I finished with the necessary digits (all numbers, no letters or symbols.) Nervously, I picked up the heavier-than-expected cryptex, spinning the tumblers into place until I felt (rather than heard) a ‘click’. Carefully I pulled the end cap, extracting a central cylinder which…was actually a USB stick!!

20160111_182511

Crap. Should’ve said ‘SPOILER ALERT!’

Haha! Of course! The whole thing was basically an electronic press kit. I found a video that ran a nice two-and-a-half minutes, descriptions of the varieties of whisky available, the different ages and such, and some information on the distillery and its history. It was all so wonderful.

So, quickly, I’ll tell you this. Dewar’s, knowing of my love for their blended scotch, reached out to me on Twitter. They informed me that they were about to launch a few varieties of single-malt scotch. The neat part? These featured single-malts are essentially the whiskies that get blended to make Dewar’s White Label. And now, for the first time, the greater public would be able to enjoy them one at a time. I was asked if I’d be interested in trying some. “Abso-freakin’-LUTELY” was my paraphrased response.

But the fun manner in which this was all presented, the mystery, the charm, the enigma…that’s good stuff. It’s great marketing, quite frankly, and excellent showmanship. Not sure who handles their promotions and advertising, but they’re a top-notch firm, make no mistake. And reaching out to select Twitter followers? Brilliant use of social media. Much more effective than some stupid YouTube video or “repost this for a chance to win” Facebook contest.

Ah, and as for the scotch itself?

 

To be continued…

 

 

 

Job Love.

So, here it is.  4:39PM on Friday, January 16th.  I’m at my desk.  I’ve done all I can really do today.  This week.  For now.

“And what is it that you do, exactly?” you ask.  Ostensibly, I’m a copywriter.  So that means I’m tasked with providing the written words for any number of different advertising campaigns. Projects carried out by my employers, the highly-regarded Asher Agency.  From the script for the flu bug radio commercial or the miniature screenplay for those Indiana Tech television commercials.  The hashtags on that Subway print ad.  The direct mail piece you got from PHP Healthcare.  That’s me.  That’s what I do.

Of course, there’s more to it than that. Just as I discovered in my radio career, each member of a team does more than one thing. “Everyone fights.  No one quits.”   We all have our particular focus, but the overlap is considerable. Each member of the creative team chips in with and develops concepts, comes up with visual ideas and directions, creates via the great crowd-brain-hivemind here in the creative department.  I love that shit.  I truly do.

I love being part of a team.  That was one bright spot in my radio career: even when things got dodgy,  I knew my teammates (the other  members of our on-air staff) were there with me.  As with any team, when everyone pulls together and does the impossible? Well, like Captain Mal says:  that makes us mighty.

But there are other perks here in advertising land.  For example:  I’m sipping a Sierra Nevada Coffee Stout from a pint glass at my desk  During business hours.  Things have certainly changed since the ol’ Don Draper days.  Folks don’t keep bottles of scotch or rye at their desks (Okay, some do.  Seriously.  But we don’t flaunt it, don’t partake all damned day.  We save it for the Friday of a long week or for special occasions. Everyone here is a professional.  We act like it.  That’s what we rule.  The stakes are just too high nowadays, the demand for quality too great to be achieved by a bunch of drunks.)  It’s still nice to unwind at the end of a busy week.  Feels good, man.

As I sat here doing maintenance/cleaning house on my email inbox, I rediscovered the following exchange which sums things up so very nicely.  See, last week I wanted to tip my supervisors off to the fact that I would be missing the first hour of so of the workday this past Monday (the 12th) for a routine doctor’s appointment. I start by sending this to my bosses, Dan and Kelly.  They’re both brilliant guys.  Geniuses.  So goddam smart and creative. Anyway, here’s what I said:

 


From: Turner

To: Dan, Kelly

re: Doctor’s appointment

Hey, fellas.  I have a doctor’s appointment Monday morning early, so I’l likely miss the traffic meeting.  Just wanted you to be aware, and not freak out and think “He’s finally done it!  Run off to live the life of a hobo, riding the rails of this great nation.  Sleeping in box cars, eating soup right from the can.  Fare thee well, strange tattooed man!”

 
Or whatever.
 

 

My first response was from Kelly, who I imagined chuckling, his shoulders convulsing as he typed.  He said simply:
 

From: Kelly
To: Turner
CC: Dan
Re: doctor’s
 
LOVE IT!!!

 

Three exclamation marks.  THREE!  And then Dan chimed in:

From: Dan
To: Turner, Kelly
re: Doctor’s appointment
 
All the while listening to Box Car Willie’s Greatest Hits on a Sony Walkman he picked up at the Salvation Army using batteries stolen from the countertop wire rack display at a 7-11 near the train yard in Waterloo, Iowa.

 

See what he did?  He continued the story! That’s fun! He could’ve ignored it, or sent an “Approved” message.  He didn’t.  So I expanded…

From: Turner
To: Dan, Kelly
re: Doctor’s appointment
 
Not “technically” stolen.  I left an old silver dollar my pappy gave me, and the promise to return once I’ve made my fortune.

 
(But really, I‘ll be at the doctor’s.)
See, I wanted to underscore the fact that I would be at the doc’s.  Dan’s warm response:

From: Dan
To: Turner, Kelly
re: Doctor’s appointment
 
Perfect. Be well. Don’t let the Doc poke and prod too damn much.
 
Now, the thing is, those guys could’ve handled my note in a couple of different ways.  Their response could’ve been very matter-of-fact.  “Okay.  Let us know when you arrive at the office on Monday.”  Or even “make sure this time is covered under office coding procedure vis-a-vis your timesheet.”  They could’ve responded with a terse “OK.”  Or, they could’ve been complete dicks and fired back “In the future, clear any and ALL delays or time away with us ahead of time.”
None of that happened.  Instead, they treated me like a valued employee.  Someone whose continued happiness within the company framework was important to them.  It was amazing.  It was…new.  To me, anyway.
Don’t get me wrong:  I’ve had a bunch of great supervisors in my professional life.  Radio, pawn shop, parts department, ice rink…wherever I’ve found myself employed.  But the stakes are just…higher?  I don’t know.  It’s just weird.  In a good way.  My sister-in-law works for Google out in Mountainview, CA. In the past, she would tell me stories much like this and I’d scoff.  I thought that there was no way that a worthwhile company would play it so fast-and-loose with employees.
One of these two is a friggin' VP.  How about that?

One of these two is a friggin’ VP. How about that?

That’s before I worked for a company that “got” it.  Like Google does.  Like Blizzard and Microsoft and a dozen different advertising agencies do. And it struck me that the best companies, the ones with a pulse, the ones that know what the hell’s happening out there…they’re great for a reason.  And it ain’t the amount of money they bring in (although that certainly helps matters) or the number of people they employ.  Its because if you work for them, they want you to be happy. (My wife works for a software engineering company that has a ping-pong and corn hole room for de-stressing during the day.  It’s no surprise that they’re a company that’s growing exponentially, hiring and building.  They’re going to be massive.)  Ye gods, what a great concept.
May you all be so lucky to work for such an enterprise some day.  Cheers.
(By the way, I recently signed up for a Behance account, sort of like an online portfolio.  If you’re curious about some of the stuff I’ve been lucky enough to have a hand in, check it out at https://www.behance.net/turnerwatson)