Sorry for the lack of posts in the last five days or so, but I was in Portland, OR. Between being stuck on airplanes and airports, touring the city and its outskirts, meeting with some pretty amazing people and enjoying the honor of being on the 2009 Rosey Awards jury, I didn’t have much time to blog. Too bad too, because A LOT has been going through my mind these last few days, about a great many things.

Rather than write a series of long dissertations over the course of several weeks though, here are some observations about various topics in easily digestible Top 10/note format instead:

Flying coast to coast:

1. United Airlines had some good crews out of Chicago and Portland. As much as I’d love to complain about how horrible it was to fly cross country (twice), I can’t. The planes were clean, (relatively) comfortable, the crews were professional and friendly, and for the most part the flights were on time. Have airlines in the US turned the corner? I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s been a while since I’ve flown from coast to coast without wanting to rip into an airline or two. Well done, United.

2. Orbitz’ automated info service calling me on my cell to give me the latest flight info rocked. The one delay I suffered on the way home prompted two calls within minutes of the gate agent’s announcement. That’s FAST. Very cool and efficient.

3. The screens on the info kiosks in O’Hare all say, touch me, which I find kind of funny. Especially since no one does.

4. Airports increasingly turn travelers into homeless people. I saw more folks sleeping on the floor in our nation’s airports than I did in Portland’s public parks. Not to rag on Portland or anything (I am not), but that’s pretty obnoxious. What, a few hours on a plane and we lose all sense of decorum? Since when? Put your shoes back on and grab a seat. Concourse C isn’t your living room or your back yard. Thanks.

5. Books love long flights.

6. Travel light. It pays off.

7. Ironically, you can fly with a cigarette lighter in your pocket – as long as you buy it at the gift shop inside the terminal.

8. The TSA people at PDX are insanely friendly, and kind of funny.

9. Chicago O’Hare is a complete cluster. One of the worst airport designs on the planet.

10. The inspiration behind most airport terminal designs must have come from ER waiting rooms, which is not a good thing, considering that’s where most passengers will spend nearly half of their travel time. Pretty sad. We could do a lot better. Especially since… well, see number 4 (above).

Portland, Oregon:

1. Half-way between Seattle and San Francisco, surrounded by some of the most gorgeous, fertile countryside in North America, cyclists and microbreweries everywhere, some of the best vineyards in the US, a real foodie culture, effective public transportation… Should I go on?

2. California wines may get all the publicity, but Oregon pinots are the shiznit. Oregon wines rocked my world, and I know a little bit about wines since I’m French, so you really should listen to me on this. I am not wrong. Don’t know where to start? Check out Elk Cove Vineyards.

3. The best oyster po-boy on the planet is at a restaurant called EAT on N. Williams. (The oyster shooters are off the hook too.) From downtown, take the red line and grab the #44 bus. (Below: The triumvirate – microbrew, dirty mary oyster shooter, and good old glacier-fed water.)

The triumvirate

4. Just a few miles outside of the city, you can see things like this:


columbia river gorge

Sorry for the poor image quality. I only had my phone on me. This is some of the prettiest country on the planet, and you don’t have to drive very far to enjoy it. What other major US city has this kind of awesomeness in its back yard?

5. Downtown’s wi-fi could have been better. Surprising since everything in Portland was pretty top notch. I guess I had to have one semi-negative thing to say about my stay. 😀

Oh, and the Hilton family of hotels MUST stop charging people for wi-fi (especially in its lobby and bar). Come on, Hilton hotels: If cheap hotels can provide free wi-fi for their customers, so can you. Welcome to 2009 (almost 2010). Don’t make me cross the street to use my laptop. It doesn’t help your business. That goes for Hiltons everywhere, not just in Portland.

Aside from that, my Hilton experience was fantastic.

6. Portland Ad Fed and the portland creative community ROCK. (And they sport a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek brand of humor that I dig a lot.) Below: Greenville, SC was not forgotten. 😀

roseys 2 - Greenville sucks

Incidentally, if you’re in advertising and the PAF’s campaign around this year’s Roseys offends you, try this on for size: a) Chill. Take a deep breath. Relax. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Have a laugh at your own expense every once in a while. b) Read this.

7. Bicycles everywhere. Ladies ride bikes to work in skirts and heels. Gentlemen ride bikes to work in suits. Nuff said.

8. Hazelnuts. (1/2 of the Nutella magic formula.) They grow there. Lots of them. As a matter of fact, people there seem to know how to grow their own food, which is more than I can say for most people around the US. There’s something to be said for that.

9. Did I mention that Portland has a fantastic downtown? Great architecture, lots of cool places to discover, simple navigation, friendly people, coffee shops and restaurants everywhere…

10. People there seem pretty happy to be good neighbors without telling each other how they should live their lives, which I find kind of refreshing these days. Heck, nobody looked at me funny for drinking absinthe after dinner Saturday. If that isn’t pretty cool, I don’t know what is. Oh, and the fashions in portland are off the hook. Check out this guy:


Being on the jury of a prestigious advertising competition:

1. Many of you probably know that as a wee boy growing up in Paris during the golden age of European advertising, I was a genuine advertising junkie.  I’ve always loved advertising. So for me to be invited to spend a couple of days neck deep in ad campaigns was very much a dream come true. There were several moments during the Rosey judging when I caught myself grinning from ear to ear thinking about that little boy in 1970’s Paris, who would have been pretty excited to know that in a couple of decades, he would be judging an advertising competition. Very cool.

2. Not being an ad guy gives me a radically different  perspective on what makes advertising great or effective from people in the advertising industry. Not saying it’s a better perspective, just a different one.

3. Big budgets = better production values = better ads. Fair or not, that’s still the reality.  Agencies working with small budgets need to become smarter and more creative than their better paid competitors. Not just say they are – actually do it. Learn to do more with less.

4. Great advertising is not budget-dependent. Don’t buy into the mentality that your best clients are your biggest clients.

5. The advertising world does not understand the web. At all. Still. (Which is weird because so many ad agencies have pretty nice websites these days.)

6. If you are an advertising agency and you dream of winning an award, enter work worthy of an award. Don’t enter for the sake of having your work reviewed and rejected in the first round.

7. What works isn’t always what wins. Advertising that appeals to the general public (potential customers) doesn’t necessarily appeal to creative directors and agency principals – folks who tend to judge these things.

8. If you don’t win this year, try again next year. Between now and then though, let go of the fear. Be bolder, funnier, smarter. Dream big and live in the details. Do extraordinary work. Safe and derivative don’t win hearts out there in the world or in competitions. There really is no alternative to kicking ass.

9. Judging is hard. You want to give good work well deserved recognition, but “good” just isn’t good enough to be awarded a prize. You need to be better than good. You need to be great. Exceptional, even. I wish there were an award for just “good” work… but there really isn’t.

10. Ad agencies enjoy some of the coolest work spaces on the planet, and they know where to order the best takeout.

Before I forget, I want to send out a very special and warm thank you to Kim Brater, Jamie Sexton and Jerry Ketel for taking such wonderful care of me while in Portland. You are three of the coolest people on the planet, and I really can’t thank you enough for your trust, hospitality, friendship and generosity. 🙂

I also want to say hi to my fantastic co-judges: Raleigh, NC’s David Baldwin and Seattle, WA’s Cal McAllister. You guys taught me a lot and it was a blast hanging out with you. I hope our paths will cross again.

Sadly, you’ll all have to wait until November for the results of the judging (yes, the actual Rosey Awards), but don’t fret: I will keep you guys posted. Until then, be sure to check out the Roseys’ website (and PAF‘s too while you’re at it).

Top photo, left to right: David Baldwin, Cal McAllister and Jamie Sexton.