Tuesday, September 5, 2017



Last week I received an 8 ½ x 6-inch black envelope in the mail, with the words LUXURY CARD imprinted in white on both sides, and the backside also read “You’re invited.”

“Invited to what?” I innocently asked. Marina Kissam, Vice President, Customer Services in charge of the MasterCard® Black Card explained that “Dear Harvey Gotliffe,” was invited to become a Luxury Card Member. It features a 2% Airfare Reduction Rate as well as a 1.5% Cash Back Redemption Rate.

I was still unsure if this card was right for me, but Marina kept on selling me on the need to own one since it “is engineered with a unique stainless steel front and carbon back.” She nearly sold me when she emphasized that 39 patents had been issued globally, and the Luxury Card leads the industry in metal card design and construction. I can picture myself sitting in Economy Class, taking out the card and bragging to the person next to me about the construction and design of the card.

However, Marina Kissam gave me more fodder to digest when she said that as a Card Member, I would enjoy 24/7 services with Luxury Card Concierge, room upgrades, spa credits and complimentary food and beverages at over 3,000 properties around the world. Ms. Kissam may need a proofreader to change that wording to correctly read “at more than” 3,000 properties. The Card also includes a $100 annual airline travel credit, a $100 Global Entry application fee credit and airport lounge access. 

I would also receive LUXURY MAGAZINE, a quarterly members-only publication, with each issue showcasing an artist’s work as the cover art, making it a limited-edition collector’s item.

Among the four sales sheets included in the envelope was one that dealt with an annual fee of $495, plus $195 for my wife as an additional user. On a form that’s headlined, “A World of Privilege Awaits You,” is a box that asks for my Total Annual Income, which includes all of my sources of income, including income from assets.

I am a devout believer in supplying as little private information as possible to all local, state and federal government agencies. Thus the following paragraph disturbs me in an age where I might be considered un-American because I supported Norman Thomas in his 1948 presidential bid, although I was a mere lad of twelve at the time.

Important Information About Procedures for Opening a New Account.      “To help the government fight the funding of terrorism and money laundering activities, federal law requires all financial institutions to obtain, verify and record information that identifies each person who opens an account. What this means to you: When you apply for an account. We will ask for your name, street address, date of birth, social security number, and other information that will allow us to identify you. We may also ask to see copies of identifying documents. We also ask for your country of citizenship.”

.....and the correct answers to the above, almost are: 1523, 1-22-00, 371-32-000, USA

While my wife and I appreciate the efforts of Marina Kissam to offer us such a prestigious package, after flying to Detroit in May for two weeks, and then to England for a fortnight in June, we had already decided to avoid travelling by air for a while. If we do fly, we could use one of our already-too-many credit cards for any journey, even though we would lose the opportunity to avail the services of LUXURY LOUNGE NY, which according to Marina “is situated on New York’s Madison Avenue and provides a respite from the city with curated art, complimentary beverages and Wi-Fi access.”

We shall survive without the MasterCard® Black Card, but will barely do so. Don’t think we would have joined even if we had been offered access to the Trump Tower, or the Mar-a-Lago Club. We have been avoiding New York and Florida, for there is little incentive to go to either area.




In 1789 “tater” became a colloquial term for a potato, and is now considered Southern slang for that healthy food.

Recently, a group of potatoes from around the world were gathered around a campfire, discussing what they each thought about Donald Trump, the Democrats, the protesters on the left and the right, and free speech in general.

An Austrian Crescent Potato spewed forth his opinion of the entire news scene in a curt manner, still defending his collaborative actions during the Holocaust. A Russian Banana Potato was more negative and terse in his description, not acting cooperative. A Japanese Sweet Potato was more deferring in her pronouncements, avoiding any commitment for a possible battle with the North Koreans. A French Fingerling Potato presented contradictory insight, which caused a Larette Potato to rebuke what the Fingerling had said.

The All Blue, Yukon Gold, Red Gold, Norland Red and Purple Majesty potatoes, had a heated, colorful side discussion on their own.

A plain, albeit solid, American, potato shunned entering the fray, and when asked “Why?” by a Hannah Sweet Potato, he shyly replied. “You are all so very special, and I am just a common tater, and have nothing special to offer.”

Common Taters Are Usually
Void of Meaningful Input

Whether it’s regarding a discussion of any topic be it politics, sports, immigration, the world scene, or the rain in Texas vs. the reign in DC, the common taters on cable television offer little meaningful insight into finding solutions. If it’s a panel discussion, it’s even harder for the listener to learn anything amid the babbling, inane shouting emanating from the inconsequential, biased, uninformed panelists.

These common taters strictly espouse their own opinions disguised as truthful, helpful information. They may even convince some that they are presenting the “news,” when all they are presenting is the “Nu?” “Nu?” being a Yiddish expression meaning “so,” or better yet, “so what?”

You can call these unknowing individuals prognosticators, seers, forecasters, guesstimators, or opinion makers. As a wise, unbiased philosopher named Clint Eastwood said not too long ago, “Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one.”



 “The Sun Is Setting on Honda’s Summerbration Sales Event,” were the words emanating from a television commercial this Sunday, September 3, 2017. Those same words headlined a two-page, full-color advertisement that has been appearing in national magazines. In 2016, the Honda spent 1.38 billion U.S. dollars on advertising in U.S. media.
The American Honda Motor Co., Inc. out of Torrance, California looked to the Magnani advertising group, who is big on slogans promising “Creative that connects, compels and converts.” Their webpage goes further promising that ”Our creative strategies are as distinctive as our clients and the customers they need to connect with. Our researched-based THINK-PLAN-ACT-INTERACT process ensures creative is founded on a solid understanding of who your audience is, and how best we can engage them.”

Putting the Zing
In Advertizing

Every advertising agency tries to create a raison d'ĂȘtre, and Magnani boasts that “Our agile team of 35 accomplished creative and account professionals ensures your creative shines and is on strategy the first time.”

All creative houses such as Magnani, look to first ensnare their potential clients, and then hold on to those clients by stimulating sales and profits with catchy advertising campaigns. In times of last-minute panic and the client is overly anxious, sometime advertising agencies sit their entire creative staff around a table, and threaten them with forced retirement if they can’t come up with usable campaign slogan for their top clients.

We Gather Together

That gathering may include the senior account executive, a junior account executive or two, the copy chief, numerous copywriters, art directors, and anyone else with an ounce of creativity left in their system from too many such “creative” get togethers.

When I worked in Detroit for the advertising agency handling, or at times, mishandling the Oldsmobile account, we had too many such meetings. If it were centered on a massive full line promotion, you’d hear the standard, inane event names bandied about. “Oldsmobile’s Sellathon,” or its “Sellabration,” or “Saleabration,” or even “Sale Into Summer with Oldsmobile.”

Remember, sitting around an elongated table were perhaps twelve ad men (no women allowed in 1963), with a combined hourly salary of more than $201.60. They were semi-passionately trying to come up with a winning name for a sales campaign for the deadly summer season, before the shiny, new, 1964 Oldsmobile arrived.

They tried even harder as lunchtime approached, to no avail.

There’s Even More Narishkeyt
Another sales event took place after the annual, independent comparative testing of makes in several categories including speed, acceleration, mileage, and braking. Although some of the 1964 models did decently against their competition, Oldsmobile had difficulty with their model's braking ability.

If you sat long enough around a “creative” table without any viable suggestions, contributions tended to become just words tossed out to fill the void, and allow all participants to go to their cubicles (or closets) and create on their own.

I had scribbled enough meaningless phrases on the Oldsmobile’s weak braking abilities while listening to those of our team, that I finally interrupted the magical flow of ideas, with my own favorite. Since the Oldsmobile had finished last in the competition, and in one instant had failed the test completely, I blurted out my suggested headline, “There’s no stopping an Oldsmobile.”

The account executives that would have to face their counterparts at Oldsmobile in Lansing with our ideas were aghast, but the rest of us smiled, and the meeting soon ended.

A Change in the
Weather or Not

Advertising success, like life itself, depends on timing, and there are occasions when you lose control of a situation. Such is the case with the American Cruise Lines four-color, full-page advertisement on page twenty-one of the September 18th issue of TIME magazine. The ad was created and inserted long before the destructive weather hit the South, contradicting the ad's headline  “The Historic South, Smooth Water, Southern Charm.” A large photograph shows calm waters from Florida, through Georgia, and into South Carolina. When I called American Cruise Lines, a charming Southern Belle said they would be running as usual, as soon as they check the conditions of their docks.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


I May Drink to That
That 16-page section on June 18, described in THIS & THAT #25, also ran advertisements from two prominent exchanges, which have already devoted their artistic talent making memory-inducing, commemorative items including those on both Obama and Trump. The Bradford Exchange offered a Warriors limited edition,  “sculpted porcelain beer stein you’d be proud to own, for “four convenient installments of $32.49 each, or $129.99. Then, in small, almost unreadable type far below “Plus a total of $17.99 shipping and service.” This edition is limited to only 5,000 steins, and “The earliest orders receive coveted lowest edition numbers.”
Think I have waited too long to acquire a lower numbered stein, and that’s the severe price I have to pay for prolonged procrastinating.

Give the Winners a Trophy 
A few pages later, Bradford advertised a copy of the “2017 NBA FINALS CHAMPIONSHIP TROPHY.” They say, “It’s a slam dunk” at just $99.99, but best order now since this “officially licensed collectible tribute is limited to 10,000 worldwide, so don’t wait to order.”
But don’t forget the $14.99 for shipping and service. Are there truly 10,000 people worldwide clamoring for this rare item?

A...They're Adorable
On page 15, is the darling of the collectibles, with a “Warriors Win!” headline, it should get many Warrior fans emotionally involved when they see two adorable five-year-olds less than 6-inches high, in fine bisque porcelain and labeled “Special Event Keepsake, cheers on the reigning NBA Champions!” This memento has “Together We’re A Winning Team!” on its base. This ties into the syrupy body copy in the advertisement, “From opening tip off to the final buzzer, you and your sweetie teamed up to cheer on your Golden State Warriors.”
This Hamilton Exchange piece of art is offered for “just four installments of $24.99,” plus $13 for shipping and service.

 Staying on Track
There are two more precious items offered including a 2017 NBA Finals Champions Express, including a model diesel locomotive, 14-piece track set, power pack, and speed controller, with “Strength In Numbers” printed on its side.  It’s available for only $79.99 from Bradford, plus $9.99 shipping and service.

There should be no doubt in your mind that the most-wanted remembrance will be the Warriors 2017 NBA Championship Levitating Basketball, a steal at $179.99, plus $21.99 shipping and handling. The Bradford Exchange offers the buyer a wonderful opportunity to “help keep the thrill going all year around,” and you can “show your loyalty and pride with this commemorative sculpture featuring a basketball that hovers and spins in mid-air.” They remind the potential buyer that “Time is of the essence,” since only 10,000 will be available.

As for me, since I never had a Lionel Train Set in my youth, I am seriously thinking of acquiring the Champions Express. First off, it’s the least expensive of all mementos for sale, and secondly I would be in charge of running it, if my wife allows me to do so.

She just reminded me that I already am the proud owner of free, bright yellow, XL size tee shirt with the words ALL GOLD EVERYTHING FINALS 2017 emblazoned in faded grey type on the front. You can find that story on THIS & THAT #24.

So why should I be greedy? Although owning a genuine Warriors choo-choo train would certainly impress my neighbor, however then I’d have to invite him in my home for the first time ever to view it in action, with me at the controls. Best to leave well enough alone for now, and just wear the XL tee shirt with pride as nightwear, or let it help fill my dresser drawer until next year’s season begins, which is less than six months away.

Time flies when you are a winner, not a whiner.