2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 25,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Publicis Omnicom Groupe Merger is Great for Advertising!

So this weekend in the ‪#‎adlife‬, Omnicom and Publicis Groupe announced they will merge into a creatively named holding company called Publicis Omnicom Groupe. What this means is that they will become the largest advertising holding company eclipsing WPP and leaving IPG and Havas behind.

From the company’s point of view, this will be a win-win with their increase in overall market share, synergies between formerly competing shops/agencies, and increased efficiencies. In other words, this will suck for the average ad professional since there will just be an illusion of choice when switching shops, possible redundancies due to consolidation, and aggressive cost-cutting in reduced healthcare and 401k benefits. Regardless, this will be great because it will increase overall ROI for shareholders, result in an increase in freelancers from all the project layoffs, and lower starting salaries due to the glut in freelancers and reduced costs.

On the flipside, this will be a boon for indie shops since they have a chance to steal some business away from the corporate agencies. With the merger, there are now clearer conflicts of interests and less stability for the ad professional, something indie shops could take care if they make the right decisions.

This will also be great for the other holding companies due to the expected increase in freelancers and available talent. With the increase in freelancers due to resignations or layoffs, this means companies can work harder to get contract work at lower rates or lower starting salaries since we all know that a glut in talent leads to lower costs. Also, this merger will get other holding companies such as IPG, Havas or even Dentsu to start thinking about merging or strategic alliances.

All this news about holding companies merging at the corporate level may seen boring and academic, but the short story is that all ad professionals need to start protecting their necks. Whether this means kissing up to the department heads or senior colleagues to get them to protect them or act as their advocates during restructuring time or simply switching jobs before things get bad at the office, everyone is on their own in light of these changes.

This means people who are out of the job will expect to be competing with more freelancers for gigs or will need to pare down their expectations for salaries or benefits. Most of all, everyone needs to get ready for shops being reshuffled, re-branded, realigned and relaunched similar to what WPP did with G2 when they merged it with related shops and relaunched it as Geometry something after severing its links with Grey.

Also, the Asian economies are going to slow down so don’t expect to find work in this side of the world because ad spend if also going down just like in North America and Europe.  Or this could all fail due to anti-trust regulations in the US and EU.

Merger Of Advertising Giants Brings Together Largest Collection Of People With No Discernible Skills

NEW YORK—In a historic announcement that analysts say marks major changes for the advertising industry, senior leadership at Omnicom Group, Inc. and Publicis Groupe SA outlined plans on Sunday to merge the advertising giants into one firm, bringing together the largest collection of people with no discernible skills whatsoever. “With thousands of employees and billions of dollars of assets between them, the consolidation of Omnicom and Publicis will create an intimidating workforce of 135,000 utterly talentless men and women who are not marketable in any industry other than their own and whose jobs add zero value to society at large,” market analyst Mark Goodnough said of the planned $35 billion merger, adding that not a single person involved in the merger has ever made anything with his hands, knows anything about information technology, or is capable of doing quality writing or research. “These two ad behemoths will have the industry’s largest and most formidable talent pool of people called ‘creatives’ who have never created a single thing in their lives and whose only apparent ability is to trick other people.” At press time, over $500 billion was spent on advertising last year.

The Non-Financial Cost of Stagnation: “Social Recession” and Japan’s “Lost Generations”

The Non-Financial Cost of Stagnation: “Social Recession” and Japan’s “Lost Generations”   (August 9, 2010)

Japan’s stagnating economy and society are still operating on a postwar model which no longer makes sense. In response, its young generations are opting out of workaholic career paths, marriage and having children.

We in America are already getting a taste of the social costs of grinding economic decline. Young people who are graduating from college find a world of greatly diminished opportunities for full-time employment.

Many of the jobs that are available are free-lance/contract or other temp jobs, or part-time positions which pay one-third of what their parents earn.

Lacking sufficient income, young people are moving back home or staying at home because that is the only financially viable option open to them.

The cheerleaders cranking the hype machine shrilly claim that the U.S. economy will soon start growing smartly. But as this weblog and many others have documented over the past five years, that assumption has essentially no foundation in reality.

Much more likely is an “end to (paying) work” of the sort I have described here many times:

End of Work, End of Affluence (December 5, 2008)

End of Work, End of Affluence I: Cascading Job Losses (December 8, 2008)

End of Work, End of Affluence III: The Rise of Informal Businesses (December 10, 2008)

Endgame 3: The End of (Paying) Work (January 21, 2009)

Demographics and the End of the Savior State (May 17, 2010)

What happens to the social fabric of an advanced-economy nation after a decade or more of economic stagnation? For an answer, we can turn to Japan. The second-largest economy in the world has stagnated in just this fashion for almost twenty years, and the consequences for the “lost generations” which have come of age in the “lost decades” have been dire. In many ways, the social conventions of Japan are fraying or unraveling under the relentless pressure of an economy in seemingly permanent decline.

While the world sees Japan as the home of consumer technology juggernauts such as Sony and Toshiba and high-tech “bullet trains” (shinkansen), beneath the bright lights of Tokyo and the evident wealth generated by decades of hard work and the massive global export machine of “Japan, Inc,” lies a different reality: increasing poverty and decreasing opportunity for the nation’s youth.

The gap between extremes of income at the top and bottom of society– measured by the Gini coefficient — has been growing in Japan for years; to the surprise of many outsiders, once-egalitarian Japan is becoming a nation of haves and have-nots.

The media in Japan have popularized the phrase “kakusa shakai,” literally meaning “gap society.” As the elite slice of society prospers and younger workers are increasingly marginalized, the media has focused on the shrinking middle class. For example, a bestselling book offers tips on how to get by on an annual income of less than three million yen ($34,800). Two million yen ($23,000) has become the de-facto poverty line for millions of Japanese, especially outside high-cost Tokyo.

More than one-third of the workforce is part-time as companies have shed the famed Japanese lifetime employment system, nudged along by government legislation which abolished restrictions on flexible hiring a few years ago. Temp agencies have expanded to fill the need for contract jobs, as permanent job opportunities have dwindled.

Many fear that as the generation of salaried Baby Boomers dies out, the country’s economic slide might accelerate. Japan’s share of the global economy has fallen below 10 percent from a peak of 18 percent in 1994. Were this decline to continue, income disparities would widen and threaten to pull this once-stable society apart.

Young Japanese, their expectations permanently downsized, are increasingly opting out of the rigid social systems on which Japan, Inc. was built.

The term “Freeter” is a hybrid word that originated in the late 1980s, just as the Japanese property and stock market bubbles reached their zenith. It combines the English “free” a nd the German “arbeiter,” or worker, and describes a lifestyle which is radically different from the buttoned-down rigidity of the permanent-employment economy: freedom to move between jobs.

This absence of loyalty to a company is totally alien to previous generations of driven Japanese “salarymen” who were expected to uncomplainingly turn in 70-hour work weeks at the same company for decades, all in exchange for lifetime employment.

Many young people have come to mistrust big corporations, having seen their fathers or uncles eased out of “lifetime” jobs in the relentless downsizing of the past twenty years. From the point of view of the younger generations, the loyalty their parents unstintingly offered to companies was wasted.

They have also come to see diminishing value in the grueling study and tortuous examinations required to compete for the elite jobs in academia, industry and government; with opportunities fading, long years of study are perceived as pointless.

In contrast, the “freeter” lifestyle is one of hopping between short-term jobs and devoting energy and time to foreign travel, hobbies or other interests.

As long ago as 2001, The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare estimates that 50 percent of high school graduates and 30 percent of college graduates now quit their jobs within three years of leaving school.

The downside is permanently downsized income and prospects. Many of the four million “freeters” survive on part-time work and either live at home or in a tiny flat with no bath. A typical “freeter” wage is 1,000 yen ($8.60) an hour.

Japan’s slump has lasted so long, a “New Lost Generation” is coming of age, joining Japan’s first “Lost Generation” which graduated into the bleak job market of the 1990s.

These trends have led to an ironic moniker for the Freeter lifestyle: Dame-Ren (No Good People). The Dame-Ren get by on odd jobs, low-cost living and drastically diminished expectations.

The decline of permanent employment has led to the unraveling of social mores and conventions. Many young men now reject the macho work ethic and related values of their fathers. These “herbivores” reject the traditonal Samurai ideal of masculinity.

Derisively called “herbivores” or “Grass-eaters,” these young men are uncompetitive and uncommitted to work, evidence of their deep disillusionment with Japan’s troubled economy.

A bestselling book titled The Herbivorous Ladylike Men Who Are Changing Japan by Megumi Ushikubo, president of Tokyo marketing firm Infinity, claims that about two-thirds of all Japanese men aged 20-34 are now partial or total grass-eaters. “People who grew up in the bubble era (of the 1980s) really feel like they were let down. They worked so hard and it all came to nothing,” says Ms Ushikubo. “So the men who came after them have changed.”

This has spawned a disconnect between genders so pervasive that Japan is experiencing a “social recession” in marriage, births, and even sex, all of which are declining.

With a wealth and income divide widening along generational lines, many young Japanese are attaching themselves to their parents, the generation that accumulated home and savings during the boom years of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Surveys indicate that roughly two-thirds of freeters live at home.

Freeters “who have no children, no dreams, hope or job skills could become a major burden on society, as they contribute to the decline in the birthrate and in social insurance contributions,” Masahiro Yamada, a sociology professor wrote in a magazine essay titled, Parasite Singles Feed on Family System.

This trend of never leaving home has sparked an almost tragicomical countertrend ofJapanese parents who actively seek mates to marry off their “parasite single” offspring as the only way to get them out of the house.

An even more extreme social disorder is Hikikomori, or “acute social withdrawal,” a condition in which the young live-at-home person will virtually wall themselves off from the world by never leaving their room.

Though acute social withdrawal in Japan affect both genders, impossibly high expectations of males from middle and upper middle class families has led many sons, typically the eldest, to refuse to leave the home. The trigger for this complete withdrawal from social interaction is often one or more traumatic episodes of social or academic failure: that is, the inability to meet standards of conduct and success that can no longer be met in diminished-opportunity Japan.

The unraveling of Japan’s social fabric as a result of eroding economic conditions for young people offers Americans a troubling glimpse of the high costs of long-term economic stagnation.

There is even a darker side to this disintegration of the social fabric and convention: child abuse is on the rise as well. Sadly, people under long-term stress often take out their multiple frustrations on the weakest, most marginalized people–including children:

Record 44,210 child abuse cases logged in ’09

Japan hit by huge rise in child abuse

Both Japan and the U.S. alike desperately need a peaceful revolution in expectations, financial justice (i.e. the absence of fraud, collusion, looting, gaming the system and parasitic leeching by financial and political Elites) and in the social definitions of wealth, security, community, “growth” as a measure of well-being and prosperity, and ultimately, what constitutes meaningful “work.”

In effect, postwar Japan grafted a mercantilist export economy based on insane work-hours onto a traditional patriarchal society in which women were expected to sacrifice their autonomy and ambitions for the good of their children, husband and the husband’s parents.

The male “salaryman” was expected to sacrifice his life up to retirement to his employer, via 60-70 hour work-weeks and killing commutes. Children were expected to sacrifice their childhood and teen years to study, in order to pass hellishly demanding exams on which their future livelihood, career and income depended.

These extremes of sacrifice might have made sense or seemed necessary to rebuild the nation after World War II. But now, 65 years and three generations after the war, these sacrifices make no sense and are destroying the social fabric of Japan.

Men who work 70 hours a week have no real role in their children’s lives, nor are they able to be husbands and fathers in any meaningful day-to-day sense. Understandably, many young Japanese men are opting out of that life of absurd, fundamentally meaningless sacrifice to corporations or the government.

For their part, young women are opting out of the burdens of being in effect a single parent who carries the immense responsibility of guaranteeing the academic success of her son(s) and the marriageability of her daughter(s). Further, as in standard traditional societies, she essentially leaves her own family and throws in her lot with her husband’s family, as she is expected to care for his aging parents as a daughter-in-law.

Given these burdens, it’s no wonder a third of Japanese young women have not married and have no plans to marry. According to one female author quoted in one of the above articles, Japanese men sometimes propose to women with lines like: “I want you to cook miso soup for me the rest of my life.” Quelle surprise that Japan’s increasingly educated and well-traveled young women are not impressed with this offer of lifetime menial servitude.

Japan’s youth are opting out of its stagnating economy and traditionalist society for good reason: the sacrifices demanded are inhuman and no longer make sense.What Japan needs is 35-hour work-weeks and shared jobs, not 70-hour work-weeks for some and dead-end jobs for half its youth.

If Japan wants to encourage families and women to have children, then it needs to recognize that the sacrifices demanded of young men and women no longer make sense in today’s world.

New York Liberty HQ: Raising a glass to Ron Paul

New York Post Updated: Mon., Jun. 6, 2011, 6:52 AM

Raising a glass to Ron

By HELEN FREUND and TODD VENEZIA

Last Updated: 6:52 AM, June 6, 2011

Posted: 11:02 PM, June 5, 2011

There’s one congressman who will never have to pay for a drink in Manhattan.

Rep. Ron Paul, the libertarian-leaning Republican presidential candidate from Texas, has become an unlikely hero among bar and restaurant workers as he fights for a bill that would end all taxes on tips — the bread and butter of bartenders and waiters.

Last Thursday, a group of Paul’s Big Apple supporters, called the Ron Paul NYC Liberty HQ, held a Manhattan pub crawl in support of the legislation.

“It’s just not right. That money is supposed to be a gratuity for [the workers], not for the government,” said Dominic Inferrera, 38, a volunteer with the group.

TIPPING POINT: Kristin Rocco, working at the Upper East Side's Wicker Park bar, is toasting Rep. Ron Paul's tip-tax ban.

William Miller
TIPPING POINT: Kristin Rocco, working at the Upper East Side’s Wicker Park bar, is toasting Rep. Ron Paul’s tip-tax ban.

“I worked as a server for 10 years, and I know how hard it can be,” he said. “The sad thing is that a lot of the servers end up getting audited at the end of the year and usually work so hard that they don’t have the time or financial resources to handle it.”

Paul introduced the Tax Free Tips Act of 2011 in March. The measure would end all income tax, Social Security withholding and other federal levees on any tips earned by salaried workers.

“Unlike regular wages, a service-sector employee usually has no guarantee of, or legal right to, a tip,” Paul said in 2009, when he introduced a similar bill.

“Instead, the amount of a tip usually depends on how well an employee satisfies a client. Since the amount of taxes one pays increases along with the size of tip, taxing tips punishes workers for doing a superior job.”

As Liberty HQ members spread the word of Paul’s proposal to bar workers around the city, they got enthusiastic support.

At the Wicker Park bar on 83rd and Third Avenue, bartender Kristin Rocco, 24, said, “People just don’t understand what it’s like to work for a living in the service industry.”

“It’s already a big blow to just receive a meager 15 to 20 percent tip for the amount of work we do.”

At nearby Dylan Murphy’s, bartender Gavin Ward said he was a Paul backer. “I like the sound of this bill — I hope it passes,” he said. “I don’t mind paying my taxes like every other citizen, but the way we servers and bartenders have to do it — on an already meager wage — well, it’s just no good.”

Unfortunately for the bar workers, the bill doesn’t have a good track record. Similar measures Paul sponsored in 2007 and 2009 failed to pass.

todd.venezia@nypost.com

The moment of doubt.

It’s always something that will jolt me back into whatever I should be doing. Whether it involves getting into a better career path or getting back in shape. Something has to happen before I start taking that part of my life under control.

I remember last summer going with a friend to the Gansevoort in the meatpacking district just for kicks and to meet new people.  We knew people who could get us in and we got there before it got too crowded.  Just my luck, I ran into an old friend I had not seen since 2008 despite staying in touch via Facebook and messenger. He was completely suited up and was there to celebrate his show’s success in getting expanded to a daily format. He talked about how he was involved in activism and caught the attention of some media personalities in need of someone of his experience and political views. One meeting led to another and he became the producer. I really was glad he made it after going through some challenges several years ago. At the same time,  it struck me that I really didn’t advance in my professional life I had hoped. I was scapegoated in my previous position and I basically had to start over when I joined a new account team. The pay did not increase and the company gave all employees a paycut regardless of performance as a cost cutting measure to stabilise their precious share price.

It really hit me that night out and I lost the mood to enjoy the night. It was more complicated when I saw a coworker there enjoying his professional and personal growth with his friends and girlfriend as well. It really felt like everyone was moving ahead while I was left behind with a few others. I wound up leaving the place with my friend after spending less than two hours there.

After that night, I made an effort at my current position with the new account team. The effort rarely paid off as I was being micromanaged with no chance to work independently and based on my actual workload. There was also no guarantee that I would even get a raise, let alone promoted.

I knew this was a dead-end and I started working on getting myself out of this professional rut. For starters, I hired a professional writer to help update my resume based on my work experience with the hope it would get attention from better companies and highlights skills that I may have overlooked. It was also good luck that a headhunter reached out to me with an opportunity at a company I had strong interest in. In the end, I managed to quit my dead-end job and start at a place that is closer to my professional goals.

Now I find myself facing a similar situation in my personal life. I was in a serious relationship for over a year before it ended thanks to my previous position and from an increasingly unappreciative girlfriend. It took me time before I decided to go on a rebound relationship with a girl setup by friends. After three months, she decided to break up without reason and the friends who set me up with her didn’t care and blamed me for it without caring how it happened. It was messed up that she stopped on a whim but it was even more disappointing the way people who I thought were my friends reacted.

I decided to simply stop bothering to meet new people or girls after those chain of events. I was growing sick of the revolving door friends in the NYC social scene and I was tired of being hurt and worn down by immature and petty girls. I just had it with the entire New York social scene and only trusted my friends from childhood, NJ and college while everyone else is a potential revolving door friend who could disappoint me or drop me at will.  There would be no real reason to go to social events other than professional reasons or for appearances.

Then recently, I met someone at one of these social outings. She was approachable and had a very interesting background. It was also helped by the fact she liked cute things. We were having a fun conversation about current news and random stuff until an old friend ran into her. It turned out that they knew each other from a previous job but lost touch for many years. They really hit it off and I felt lost in the conversation as the event became more crowded and hard to follow. We exchanged numbers and emails and seemed interested in knowing more about some things we discussed, but I really felt I could have made things move in a better direction.  I held back and got lost in the scene because I was wary of making new fake friends and the prospect of a failed connection or more.  It got awkward at the end and I wound up leaving early that night.

The missed connection is bothering me and still bothers me. It’s becoming one of those moments that will get me to reassert myself in this area. It sometimes can be hard distinguishing between someone who can be a good friend from one who will work himself out of a circle of friends for petty reasons. It’s even harder to find a connection in a hectic career and with similar backgrounds despite being in such a large city. I really am unsure how I will get myself out of this predicament and I know this needs to be done or else I will keep having these moments in my personal life.

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Strange times

It’s been months since I have started blogging. Blogs from years past focused on personal subjects,  commentary on current events and random reviews.

The blog stopped after a representative/marketing manager from Michael Page international went out of their way to track me down and pressured me in a passive-aggressive way to delete a post detailing my poor experiences dealing with their reps in 2007. The comments from that blog gradually became a hotbed for disgruntled MPI reps and immature reps that supported their company. In any event, mixed reviews of this boutique recruiting firm are all over glassdoor.com if they are out to remove any real or imagined criticisms of their company.

Another reason I stopped blogging was the busy work schedule that kept me from putting time into blogging. Then there was the failed relationship that I involved in but ultimately nothing was ever enough.  These issues lead to a void in my thoughts, feelings and interests.

Recently, I resumed my interests in world events after the people’s revolutions in Egypt and the Middle East. The success in people power and al-Jazeera in contributing to this success gave me a sense of hope and optimism that faded when Obama took office. It really gave people hope that they can make change if they had the means to do so. Some friends expected the uprising to fail and for protests to result in jihadis taking power, but nothing is for certain.  I can only hope that the rebellion in Libya is just as successful as the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings.

In terms of my social life I am really not sure who my friends in NYC really are. It’s been said that friends come and go but my circle of so-called friends is like a revolving door. Some of them simply cut off contact over changes in Facebook while some distance themselves once I switched jobs.  Then there are those who simply disappoint when it mattered and those who will only hang out only if a “cool” mutual friend is there. This is one of the more unpleasant realisations of my time in the city.

My childhood friends are accessible and can be counted. My high school era buddies are good company.  My college friends are one of my core circle of friends. Friends I’ve met around NJ are also good company.  I only wish they were less busy and more accessible.

This is an unpleasant feeling and the only way to get around it is going out and meeting new people. My previous social circle in NYC is not what I thought it was.

There are some things I needed to change now. I will need to start with my Gmats now I have more leisure time that was taken because of an unproductive start-up and issues with my previous job.  I also started exercising again after being in poor shape for months.

I need to keep changing even if people like Obama and my fake NYC friends disappoint me.

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