‘Unhappiness was home’

Like all great stories, this too started with a question.

“Why are you always so damn unhappy?,” my wife asked.

And, honestly, I didn’t have a response at the time. Of course, this would make me slightly lose my mind. Months and months of wondering why. Why am I unhappy? Why do I seek it? Why am I so good at it?

I began asking myself if perhaps I was a monster. Perhaps my past didn’t make me strong. It made me terrible.

The thing is that I even found comfort in it. Unhappiness. I’ve felt happiness. I know what it is. I’ve lived it. Yet, unhappiness was home.

Shit, I celebrated it. I found an idea years ago that made it ok to be unhappy.

“Divine Discontent.”

That was my solution. I was good at what I did with life because I was discontent. I was unhappy. My unhappiness made me happy.

And as crazy as I feel writing it, I felt just as crazy saying it over and over again to myself.

Holy shit. I’m seeking unhappiness.

Maybe I am a monster.

But, I don’t want to be one. I want to live for every moment I have. And the people who count on me. Look up to me. The people I’m responsible for.

I ask my children one simple thing—be a good person. Yet, there I was, celebrating not being a good person. A hypocrite selling ideas he didn’t believe in.

Thankfully, the people around me kept me honest. Kept me thinking. Exploring.

They pushed me to focus on who I wanted to be rather than who I had become. Blinded to my own doing. And I couldn’t anymore. I didn’t want to anymore.

That’s my moment of truth. Giving it all away. Taking a step back. Focusing on long-term quality of life, rather than blindly believing in divine discontent and someone else’s dream.

I learned to let go. And I keep learning.

So what’s your moment of truth? What are you reflecting on? Why are you here? Now?

Whatever that is, I’m hopeful you seek it. Not because it’s a new year, but because your mind deserves more. Your loved ones deserve more. You deserve more.

Be blessed. Seek balance. Love.


Everyone has an in.

Whether it’s the cute coworker at the office or millions of moms around the world, everybody has a way into their hearts and minds.

Here’s the problem though — figuring it out.

That’s when strategy comes in. But, before that, we need to know a lot about the person (or persons) we’re trying to sway.

In comes research. So many types of research. I bet that whoever first said, “knowledge is power,” was in the middle of some research study. And, I believe they were correct. (But, this piece is not about research.)

So, let’s go back to the “in.”

I’ve learned that emotional cues (sometimes called “human truths” or “universal truths”) are often the most successful ways to enter into your desired person’s (or persons’) life.

For example, let’s go back to the coworker at the office. Perhaps you notice how they arrive to work at the same time, always holding a beautifully designed cup of coffee from that local shop with the “hipster logo” shining in the morning sun.

You may have never heard of the shop, or even like coffee, but you love that style of design. Then, you notice that both of you have the same brand of water-infusing bottles. Six months in, you also notice their afternoon snack-time patterns (fresh veggies, organic Greek yogurt, sea salt dark Mexican chocolate). All things you truly enjoy.

These are all data points. Opportunities to get “in.” Design, food, style, manners — all truths of the human experience. All opportunities to enter someone’s life.

Going global

Reaching the masses is basically the same idea. Just a bit more complex. A bit bigger.

Enter BIG DATA. A trendy name, yet a real movement, that expresses the collection of everyday behaviors in all of humanity. Our traces. Our breadcrumbs left behind in and around our lives. Both digital and analogue.

Very smart people have this down to a science in many businesses and companies. Often turning information into great, useful, personalized stories tailored to specific audiences, shoppers and customers at specific moments in time.

Recently, Google built and announced “a personal Google” for each individual using their products by bringing artificial intelligence and machine learning to everyone’s hands and homes. (SEO shout-out to the #madebygoogle line: Google Home, Wi-Fi, Chromecast Ultra, Daydream View, Pixel and Google Assistant.)

The concept is a little scary at first, yet the usefulness these products provide is undeniable.

The idea is actually simple: Bring relevant assistance to people around the world in the most natural form possible. Apple and Amazon aren’t too far behind with Siri and Alexa inside their hard- and software ecosystems. Even Microsoft’s Cortana is infiltrating all things IoT (Internet of Things).

Finding an “in” with people’s own behaviors — that’s the reality we’re living in. That’s the world we now have to build for every day.

So whether you’re trying to find love, or make the masses fall in love with your brands and businesses — start with their emotional cues (their truths) — and make yourself part of their stories to come.



#StrongerforLi: Finding Hope in Uncertain Times

After being laid off for the first time in my career, my eight-year-old son (Li) grew obsessively worried about what I did exactly to bring money to the family.

His obsession with our wellbeing, obviously without fully understanding all the implications, turned into an obsession with “What the heck does dad do?”, as he often asks mom.

After kind of grasping the big picture, he said to mom, “Maybe dad can help me advertise my March for Babies walk, so I can help babies live a long time!”

Clearly I couldn’t turn him down, even if I still had to desperately figure out how to feed my two boys and soon to come baby girl. (Wondering about mom? She’s an independent lady. “She can take care of herself.”)

My son had managed to turn the third worst day of my life into the most inspirational.

So… we got to work.

Li established his goals, mom handled shooting the interviews and providing content, and I worked on teaching Li what “I do” for a living.

Even baby brother decided he wanted to be part of the movement.

The outcome

The #StrongerForLi campaign was born. Three videos were built for social. And, Li insisted on doing a follow-up customized Thank you email marketing “campaign.”

The work

The “campaign” is now live, and Li has already reached $500 of his $3500 grand total. (Thank you, donors!)

The past month and a half has been a crazy time in my life. Yet, it’s great having such precious love and positivity from my family.

Copy UX: Wireframing Your Message Hierarchy

As digital and the Internet of Things continue expanding, so has the art of writing copy and messages with impact.

Much like an art director sketches before touching their Creative Suite tools, for the past three years, the biggest change in my writing has actually been wireframing my copy messages.

Copy Wire

Here’s why:

1. Everything should be responsive

Screen size fluctuation has become the norm in our generation. From TVs, pagers, sidekicks, smartphones, watches, tablets… (You get it.) Everything keeps getting smaller, then bigger, then smaller again. (And now, according to Method, we need to start thinking beyond the screen.)

What’s exciting about these times is the new design approaches that let us enjoy a product experience without feeling like we’re wondering through “Into the Woods” before we knew it was a two-hour musical. (The feeling we’re looking for is horror. Horror I say!)

Responsive design (and my current personal favorite, Material Design) has changed the way people consume information, and it has been a true challenge for those of us trying to figure out how people will consume information moving forward.

Many brands are finally tackling this new responsive era, but it is just truly becoming the norm across all types of businesses.

This alone made me think of messaging differently: Are people scrolling? Are they moving? Is it as simply human as it can be?

Exploring so many potential answers has been a true adventure, but one thing is clear: if it can’t be digested quickly, anywhere they are, it ain’t gonna work.

2. Message hierarchy matters

Now blessed by Lee Clow himself, @leeclowsbeard has one of the most influential tweets in my career: “An ad should be an appetizer, not a buffet.”

This idea is not only true, but is the one rule most clients simply don’t understand. Unfortunately, most businesses want three to ten messages in one ad. (That’s just a sad fact of ad life.)

My response is always a question: “What do you really want your audience to remember?”

Once I land on that idea, I tend to guide my clients into the top three messages they want to say, and stop writing. Anything else can be said in a different ad, email, tweet or any combination there of.

But why does it matter in the first place?

According to MIT, there are four simple Design Principles for Effective Communication:

A. Organize the presentation about a hierarchy of messages.
B. Use a constantly evolving attribute of the material to sequence it along a path.
C. Order the concepts so that earlier concepts facilitate the understanding of later concepts.
D. Provide a memorable introduction and conclusion.

There are many schools of thought on what makes a message work. I happen to identify with these because of the tech-centric, conversation-driven world we’re building.

What doesn’t change is the human experience. And, how we communicate — successfully — with each other through well-told stories.

3. Evolution is a given (and necessary)

Even though a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, someone needs to put those words in the proper order, so your audience cares, engages and shares your brand’s story.

Our society is definitely becoming more visual (think of Instagram, YouTube, KIK, Snapchat, etc.). However, the art of storytelling still drives the human experience, which is why you need someone who understands how we all behave, evolve and continue sharing stories with each other.

No matter how many screens, gadgets and gizmos we continue inventing, someone needs to continue passing our stories and findings with each other.

That’s where you’ll find a good copywriter sitting with a pen or pencil most likely over a blank piece of paper ready to fill it with grace and purpose.

Paper | Paste | Change the World

It has been quite awhile since I posted last. I have not stopped writing, actually, I have been writing more than ever. You can see some of my work here.

But that is not why I am writing here and sharing with you today. I am writing because of this outstanding quote I recently heard from JR.

“You’ve been here studying this piece, discussing it with your peers for hours. On the meantime, you haven’t thought about what you’re eating tomorrow. That’s art.”

Powerful. I leave you now to experience this wonderful project verbalized by the creator himself. Enjoy.

Stay cool, stay connected, stay balanced.


@Ogilvy On Advertising | @HeyWhipple | #TheIdeaWriters

Since I got into advertising, and copywriting specifically, I quickly learned about two people, David Ogilvy and Leo Burnett. Reading about them in the book The Art of Writing Advertising: Conversations with Masters of the Craft, which was a collection of interviews by an Ad Age editor published in the ’60s, awakened my passion for advertising and copywriting.

While at McCannSF, my MAIP mentor advised me to get Hey Whipple, Squeeze This: A Guide to Creating Great Advertising by Luke Sullivan, which made me realize how incredibly naive and behind I really was in comparison to so many other young and talented writers, art directors and advertising professionals. But, I did not take my mentor’s advised for granted: I got the book, dove into it, practiced many of Mr. Sullivan’s points and I am sure it will serve me as a go-to-guide in the next… well, my whole career. The book is priceless.

However, just two weeks ago I read about this new book coming out called The Idea Writers: Copywriting in a New Media and Marketing Era by Teressa Iezzi, editor of Ad Age’s Creativity. The moment I read the Ad Age post about the book I knew I had to buy it, so I went to Amazon and I pre-ordered it. Two days later the book came in and I dove into it. I had just began reading the classic Ogilvy on Advertising, but I felt this new book had something big to say. And, I was not mistaken.

If you follow me on Twitter and/or Facebook you are probably sick and tired of hearing me praise this thing, but I cannot stress how incredibly wonderful this book is. Let’s just say that reading was never a passion of mine (I can be honest, right? Advertising books got me into it), yet I finished this book from cover to cover in less than a week.

I am aware this may not be a big deal for most avid readers, but for me this is HUGE!

Thankfully, but not to my surprise, a couple of days after I was done reading it, Mr. Sullivan praised the book in his site and even The Wall Street Journal joined the conversation apparently I was having by myself on Twitter. What can I say, I am a Millennial! #TheIdeaWriters

Now I am back to Ogilvy on Advertising, and I honestly think I appreciate it even more because once you get into it you can sense the trends and tones that have changed since he wrote the book, but you can also appreciate the general craft of copywriting and the evolving role of the copywriter.

So why am I sharing all of this? And, who am I to advise anyone about what to read or not to read?

Honestly, I guess I am a nobody. I am just entering the field, I have never written a book, nor have I won any award in advertising.

But I am in love with this field. I am passionate about this field. And I am smart enough to recognize and understand trends when they are in front of me – and this book will be a classic – so you should get it now, especially if you are not fully sure what the role of the copywriter is (or will be) in the advertising world.

Stay cool, stay connected, stay balanced.