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So it’s a new year. A fresh set of 365 days to jump into. So what will we do with them? The scariest thing for me at least is that if I fill every 24 hour chunk with productive work and activity will it matter to anyone other than myself?
Now that I’m a few months into my 69th year I’ve made a realization which I would like to share with everyone– if you will allow me to get philosophical for a moment.
You throw a pebble into the water. Then you watch the pebble sink. And the pebble disappears from view. You think to yourself, “That’s it? I picked up that pebble, threw it, and it just sinks out of sight?”
Well, yes, that is what happens when an action is taken. But watch carefully after you throw that stone. Once it cuts through the water and sinks an interesting thing happens on the surface.
Ripples appear and they flow outward from the point where the pebble broke the water surface. In most cases the ripples are circular and flow outward in every direction. From our perspective all we see is the tiny rock sinking. We never pay attention to the slight ripples of water as they disrupt the water surface while flowing outward. And who knows what effect those ripples are having as they spread out?
This might not be the most profound thought you’ve ever encountered but for me it justifies the pebbles I throw every day. Each action I take has a ripple reaction that is affecting the world around me.
How it affects the people, places and things around me is invisible or so slight it will go beyond my notice. I just need to know that it does and as long as I’m not throwing a poisonous pebble then the end result is probably going to be OK.
So my advice is: go throw a pebble…or a rock…or a stone.
I heard on the news today that the “acting President” feels, and has consistently felt, that the American people don’t care. According to him they don’t care about the various scandals, diatribes, tasteless comments, unethical acts, and downright lies the “acting President” has pummeled America and the world with for the past two years.
Maybe they don’t. But maybe they should.
Here are a few numbers I researched that make me care. Perhaps they will provoke the same reaction in you, too.
325.7 million men, women and children made up the total population of the USA.
137.5 million votes were cast in the 2016 Presidential elections or 43% of the total population.
63 million of those votes went to the “acting President” or 20% of the total population.
Today, in 2018…
30% of the “acting President” voters still support him or 7% of the total population.
7% of the total population of the USA are making life miserable for the other 93% of us.
Now do you care?
I want to vote on November 6, 2018. I mean I REALLY want to vote on that day. But I won’t be in the town where I live to vote. I’ll be working and keeping the economy afloat.
So I decided I would contact my Board of Elections to find out how to obtain an Absentee Ballot. When I called I had to go through recorded voice message after recorded voice message to finally discover that I had to go to either the US Post Office or a Public Library to get an Absentee Ballot application form.
So I did. I went to big Post Office on West 23rd Street in Manhattan and asked the clerk for an application form. He pointed to a woman standing nearby and said, “She’s the election expert. See her.”
So I did. She said that the Post Office had never received any Absentee Ballot applications. But she did have Register to Vote applications. No need for those. I’m already registered. I want to vote. This nice lady suggested I go to the nearby Public Library and see if they have the application I need.
So I did. I walked two blocks over and asked the librarian for an Absentee Ballot application. He said the person “in charge” of election materials was out to lunch but would return soon. I waited…and waited…and waited. Finally the fellow I originally spoke with said he would go online and print an application form out for me. Which he did. I read through the form and saw the following right on top of the page….”This may be used if you are not going to be in your county on Election Day but in New York City.”
Well, I am going to be in New York City on Election Day so I thought to myself I’ll just vote in Manhattan. But then I thought about it. Why would a vote in New York City qualify for an election in my county which is 100 miles away? This didn’t make sense. I thought I better call the Board of Elections.
So I did. I got a very nice lady on the phone. She was a seasoned election vet in my home county. I told her what the application said about New York City and she said…”That makes no sense.” I said, “Right!” So what should I do?
She said I should fill out the Absentee Ballot form and get it in the mail as soon as possible. The application envelope had to be postmarked by seven days before the election. This meant the application had to be in the hands of the Post Office and postmarked by Tuesday, October 30 — one day before my wedding anniversary on Halloween, October 31. I had to fill out the application immediately.
So I did. I sat down in the library and completed the form. But then I had to find a postage stamp and an envelope to send everything out. This took another excursion. Who carries stamps with them? I had to find a stationery store.
So I did. And I mailed out my application. Now I wait and hope that the paperwork arrives at my home before Election Day so I can vote. I want to vote. I REALLY, REALLY want to vote.
And I will.
At 4:45am on a recent weekday morning, I was all alone walking down a dark side street in the village of Southampton where I live. The only creatures stirring were myself and a flock of deer breakfasting on a homeowner’s expensive plantings.
I was on my way to the Southampton High School where I was going to work for the Board of Elections as a poll inspector. I had to be there by 5am to join the other poll workers to open the polls.
Since I live about a quarter of a mile from the school it’s a simple walk.
That’s where I was going and why I was out before the sun came up. I live in a rural area where few people walk. Being a city dweller most of my life walking is second nature to me. The thought of driving a few blocks to get somewhere has always struck me as strange and lazy. So I walk almost everywhere as long as my legs and feet can take the distance and conditions.
As I neared the school a glow on the road came up behind me. I then heard the sound of a car engine. Wondering who else would be out at this hour, I turned around quickly to be sure I was seen and wouldn’t get clipped if the driver didn’t notice me walking, even though I was on the sidewalk. A car pulled up alongside me and stopped. I also stopped. I looked over and saw that it was a Southampton Village police cruiser. I immediately thought I was going to be rousted because I was the only person around…it was dark and I was wearing dark clothes…and I was walking in an area where no one walks!
I stood there waiting to get grilled when the car window descended and the officer stuck his head out the window. I was expecting a flashlight to be beamed in my eyes but the officer simply said, “Are you heading to the voting place?”
Surprised I replied, “Yes, I have to be there by 5am.” At that point the policeman did something I never expected. He said to me, “Want a lift?”
I said, “Sure” and instead of jumping into the front seat I climbed into the back. The officer seemed surprised but said nothing. The ride to the school only took a minute so we didn’t have any other conversation other than my thanking him when we arrived.
But when we did arrive my fellow poll workers were waiting outside the school for the security guard to open the door. As the police car pulled up and I climbed out they looked at me and said, “What happened? What did you do?”
I said I was exercising my right as a citizen and taxpayer to get a tax-free ride from a public employee.
On a side-note, there is zero legroom in the back of a police squad car.
This Tuesday, June 26, I’ll be working as an elections inspector during the Republican primaries in my residence town. I’ve done this before and I know one thing, you and all of my fellow Americans can relax.
Even though my day begins at 5am and runs till 10pm, and I’m getting paid less than the minimum hourly wage and not getting lunch or dinner or coffee or tea or anything else for that matter, and this is strictly a voluntary civic duty, I’ll be there.
If Russian hackers try to wield their evil bits and bytes and steal this primary election, I’ll be there.
If Mexican and Central American “terror toddlers” try to sneak across the threshold with drug-stuffed diapers, I’ll be there.
If adult film industry actors, producers and directors try to distract true Americans and cast a pornographic pall, I’ll be there.
If national debt loving tax cutters try to slice their way in, I’ll be there.
If Chinese factory workers try to slip in and steal a job that no patriotic, self-righteous American would be seen doing, I’ll be there.
If FBI, CIA, and “deep state, deep web, deep dish” provocateurs who can’t be trusted try to mislead and brainwash the brainless, I’ll be there.
If extremist environmentalists and a gaggle of global warmers try to force us to breathe clean air and drink clean water, I’ll be there.
And if some crazy politician tries to force America into receiving healthcare and living up to the ideals and standards of the Constitution, I’ll be there….starting at, OMG, 5am.
I’m teaching an online course in Advertising Copywriting for FIT which is part of the State University of New York. For those of you who don’t know what copywriting is the easiest way to explain it is that it’s a sales pitch without the human salesman.
Copywriters sell products, companies, imagery, personalities, causes, movements, virtually anything that requires the recipient of the message to take an action after absorbing the communication. We do it on TV, over the radio, in magazines, through emails, Instagram posts, Facebook banner displays, mail delivered to your home, on billboards, invasive marketing, almost anywhere a consumer can receive a message.
It’s a tough, tough business. Everyone thinks they can sell. Heck, if you’ve seen a commercial or print advertisement or an ad next to your Facebook posting of your latest cooking concoction you most likely think you can do it, too. And you probably can. As to whether you can do it effectively so people actually do respond to it — ah, that’s a whole other proposition.
Any business that spends money on advertising and marketing expects one thing: ROI, Return on Investment. For every penny spent on marketing a business expects to see at least two pennies returned in terms of sales. That’s the bottom line.
The big question facing a business used to be “where should I market?” Digital media and particularly social media have made targeting a specific consumer for your specific product has been made much more efficient thanks to algorithms and a bunch of other technical stuff I don’t claim to understand. Today, it is much, much easier to reach the exact demographic and psychographic profile that is a perfect fit for your product.
BUT…and this is the big, big problem facing marketers today…more and more consumers today are totally turned off by marketing messages. People, especially young people, no longer watch TV for two reasons. One, they want to be able to watch the TV programs they want when they want. And two, they don’t want to be interrupted and bogged down by watching commercials.
It’s not called “streaming” viewing and listening for nothing. A stream flows. It’s something you can float down in peace. Commercials are like logs or rocks in the middle of the stream that you have to stop and navigate around. They make the experience less than tranquil. The viewing consumer knows it and they don’t want to be bumped off course when they’re watching/flowing with their programs.
So what should a business do? Not market their products because consumers are bothered by marketing messages? Look for new places to put their marketing messages that consumers won’t find bothersome?
Shouldn’t consumers have the right to be made aware of products and services that can improve or enhance their lives? Of course! But what do you do when consumers don’t want to hear good news?
Imagine you have a new widget and you put out a message that says, “Oh boy, are you going to be happy. I have a new widget!” And the response from consumers is “Don’t tell me about it. Don’t you realize you’re interrupting my binging or twittering or social media plunging?”
I’ve been asking experts in advertising, marketing, social media, traditional media, consumers of all ages, and trust me no one has a rational answer to this dilemma.
Fact: A business needs to market in order to grow and thrive.
Fact: A consumer needs to receive marketing messages in order to get the best deal and benefits possible so that business can deservedly grow and thrive.
But what happens when you are trying to do all this in an era of consumer doubt and distrust due to over-promise, traditional-digital-social-media clutter, and marketing message mediocrity?
Honestly, I don’t have a clue.
And that boys and girls is a very true story.
It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon in June of 1993. I was walking on East 79th Street in Manhattan with a group of friends. We had just come from a church basement after attending a meeting of an internationally known support group.
Our small group was heading to a coffee shop on the corner of East 79th Street and 1st Avenue to sit together and shoot the breeze. It was just friends going to spend a little while talking about this and that.
As we neared the intersection we saw a small group of men gathered. What made them stand out was what they were wearing — suits on a summer Sunday! Who were these guys? Were they police looking for someone? A religious group preparing for some passionate proselytizing?
What also made them noticeable was the film crew that was gathered nearby. A camera operator and a sound engineer were leaning against a wall, smoking cigarettes, and waiting for something to happen.
As we got closer the film crew pushed themselves away from the wall and got their gear ready. The group of men in suits looked in our direction and seemed to be preparing themselves for our arrival.
What was going to happen? “We” were going to happen!
One of the dark-suited men broke away from his group and walked towards us with his hand outstretched and a big, toothy, beaming grin on his face. The film crew gathered right behind him, aiming their camera and microphone at us like fishermen focusing fishing poles toward a particular spot in the water, expecting a trout to jump out and gobble the hook.
I stuck out my hand to shake the hand of the grinning suit because I’m courteous and I have to admit I was curious who this person was who seemed so eager to meet us.
“Hi, I’m Rudy Giuliani and I’m running for Mayor of New York City”, the smiler declared to me and our group. “How are you guys doing today?”
Holding his hand in a tight handshake, I matched him smile-for-smile and said, “I’m doing absolutely great. I just came from an AA meeting!”
Suddenly the smiler ripped his hand from mine, frowned ferociously, turned his back on me and made the “cut camera” motion with his now-free hand to the film crew. The men in suits scuttled away from us as fast as possible, followed by the crew, presumably to find less tainted subjects to sidle up to.
At first I was dumbfounded but then it dawned on me what I should do next. It became as clear as the blue Sunday sky on that June afternoon.
I knew who I wasn’t going to get, and didn’t get, my vote for Mayor in November of 1993.