Is it just me, or has haiku really surged in popularity lately?

I suspect it’s largely because haiku is so easily consumed; its bite-sized format is perfect for our overscheduled, time-starved society. It’s also just the right length for social media — especially Twitter, where a wonderful #micropoetry movement has sprung to life. I regularly see #haikuchallenge and #tweetku posts streaming through my feed; I so love these little poetic snacks.



For many modern purveyors of these poems, the form helps set up a “punchline” in the last phrase. Plenty of humor books have made the most of this, from Zombie Haiku (“Good Poetry for Your…Brains”) to Redneck Haiku to the newly published Suburban Haiku, which celebrates (and skewers) the lives of minivan-driving denizens of the ‘burbs.



The simplicity of the form also just begs you to give it a try. To celebrate National Poetry Month, The New York Times asked readers to post haiku odes to The Big Apple; they garnered nearly 3,000 entries.

In that same spirit, why not try your hand at a haiku or two about the advertising world? From creative briefs to client dinners, there’s plenty of poetic fodder. Come play along! Post your own #adku in the comments section below.  Here are a few to start:

Today’s task at hand:

meet the simplest of requests.

“Make it go viral.”


Let’s push the check-in —

briefing info incomplete.

Creatives have needs!

A writer at GSD&M, Carlotta also finds the poetry (and humor) in parenting as The Well-Versed Mom.

A surprisingly eloquent Powerpoint presentation.

The orderly lines of a vendor invoice.

The constant chatter and patter in the office break room.

No matter your job, you can find wonderfully inspiring words and rhythm and meter all around you, and tomorrow is the perfect day to celebrate them. It’s Poetry at Work Day.

According to Tweetspeak Poetry, the group that inaugurated the celebration last year, the business world has abundant reasons to recommend poetry in the workplace. Harvard Business Review contends that poetry helps professionals simplify complex problems. Fast Company cites creativity as the most important leadership quality for success in business; each year it posts a much-anticipated list of influencers who “prove the value of creativity at a crucial time in business.”

In advertising, we’re lucky enough to experience and create our fair share of poetry. Perhaps, though, you’re an accountant or a programmer and think there’s nothing remotely creative about your industry. Think again. Last year, Stanford students held the first Code Poetry Slam to explore the “poetic potentials of computer programming languages.” So there you go.

If nothing else, finding or putting a little poetry in your work is an easy way to change your day just a bit — and for the better.

So tomorrow, why not start the day with an ode to bacon?

Or sneak away to go fishing with Natasha Trethewey, the current U.S. Poet Laureate?

You could even kick off your 11:00 conference call (as I plan to do) by reading a poem out loud.

Or maybe — just maybe — you could write your own verse at work and post it on the office bulletin board.


A writer at GSD&M, Carlotta also finds the poetry (and humor) in parenting as The Well-Versed Mom.

On Wednesday, April 17 we hosted the 3% Conference in Austin. With almost 100 people in attendance, Kat Gordon led the conversation about the gender gap among ad executives. Panelists included our very own Carlotta Stankiewicz, Caroline Burruss of ACL Live and more. Check out the tweets from the night here.

Here at GSD&M, we have 31 people working as Creative Directors, Group Creative Directors or Executive Creative Director.

Only one of them is a woman.

Do the math, and you’ll find that 3% of our creative leadership is female – exactly average for this industry. It’s how The 3 Percent Conference got its name. Creative Director Kat Gordon started this movement last year to help build “the business case for more female CDs.” On Wednesday night she’s bringing a mini-version of it to Austin and I’ll be a panelist, along with fellow Austin creatives Scott McAfee, Shanteka Sigers and Stefani Zellmer.

And if you’re a male creative director in Austin or nearby, I’d love to see your handsome, smiling face out there in the audience. No offense to the ladies, but I’m really looking to the men for this one.

Because, like the panelists and the other attendees, you guys recognize that something’s amiss when 97% of the people responsible for the creative product that reaches the market is male. Especially when 85% of the purchase decisions are made by females.

And because you know that men don’t have a monopoly on coming up with smart, compelling advertising — nor on leading creative teams through its development and production.

You know that more female creative directors in the industry can only help brands win the hearts and minds of that all-important female consumer — the majority of whom report that advertisers don’t understand them.

You know that having more women in creative leadership means better representation of females in the media — less sexism and objectification and more positive portrayals of women in ads.

And you know that collaborating with women brings a different, valuable perspective – and a wonderfully unique (and fun!) dynamic that you just don’t get from hanging with dudes all day.

Perhaps most important of all, you know — as the gender with more members in the upper echelons of the creative ranks — that you have a lot of power to help change our industry, for all the reasons above and more.

Come out and join us Wednesday night.

We need you to hear our stories and understand the challenges we face.

We need your input. We need your ideas. We need your support.

We need you to help us make The 3 Percent Conference a thing of the past.


Get your tickets to Wednesday night’s event here.

Last year, my open letter to the CMOs of GoDaddy and Teleflora criticized their blatantly sexist Super Bowl tv ads. Sadly, these two companies weren’t the only offenders. Happily, I wasn’t the only one who noticed.

During the game, thousands of tweets tagged with #notbuyingit called out the advertisers who fumbled so badly. Even better, the hashtag’s creators,, provided online instructions to help website owners pull their domain registration and hosting from GoDaddy, thus effectively putting their money where their tweets were.

This year, the #notbuyingit movement continues, with online activists encouraging Super Bowl viewers to leverage the power of social media and let advertisers know they’re boycotting products and services that stoop to gender representations that are offensive, harmful and just plain dumb. There’s even a handy cheat sheet listing the twitter handles of all the major Super Bowl brands and their ad agencies.

Speaking of which, as an advertising creative I’ve yet to experience the joy — and anxiety — of coming up with a Super Bowl spot. I know it’s not easy, especially with the added pressure of knowing that your work will be seen by exponentially more people than usual, and critiqued in a very public forum. But I believe that as an industry, we should and can work harder to generate advertising that’s fresh and smart and attention-getting and compelling. A few may contend that some measure of sexism and stereotyping in Super Bowl spots is just par for the course, and unavoidable. But I’m #notbuyingit.

Dear Barb and Laurie,

Like both of you, I’m a woman who works in advertising and marketing.

Like both of you, I’m also a mother.

I have two daughters, ages 12 and 14. I watched the Super Bowl with my younger girl Sunday night. And when your “Body Paint” and “Valentine’s Night” commercials played, I felt a mix of anger, confusion and sadness.

Anger, because (as many have noted) your commercials were blatantly sexist, trading on women’s bodies and sexuality to sell your products/services.

Confusion, because I wasn’t sure how to discuss these things with the pre-teen girl at my side.

And sadness, because I felt momentarily hopeless for the girls and boys like her – and like your own children – who will soon try to find their way in a society that promotes such harmful attitudes toward women.

Barb, your commercial showed a woman’s naked body being painted with your logo and copy points, thus turned into a billboard – a dehumanized object.

Laurie, your ad treats love as a transaction, where flowers become payment for sex from a woman, an object to be used for the man’s pleasure.

Your ads aren’t sexy. They’re sexist. Here are just a few reasons why that’s bad.

Thankfully, your sexist commercials aren’t going uncriticized, and there’s been a backlash in social media, including hundreds of tweets Sunday night featuring the hashtag #NotBuyingIt. Many were from website owners who had pulled their registration and hosting from Go Daddy. I can only hope that men and women alike will order their Valentine’s bouquets from florists not affiliated with Teleflora.

Super Bowl XLVI drew an average of 113 million viewers – 46 percent of them women, who are more likely to watch the commercials than men. Your companies missed an opportunity not only to show positive role models for girls and boys and men and women, but also to make a positive impression on the 51 million women watching your ads – the very consumers who are responsible for making 85% of household purchase decisions.

Although yours weren’t the only offending ads, there were plenty of Super Bowl commercials that didn’t stoop to sexism to grab attention. I firmly believe that you can do the same.

As a marketer, I urge you to do it for your business.

As a mom, I urge you to do it for your children.




“Untitled” by Chrys Grummert

When is advertising not advertising?

When it’s art.

This very cool Austin billboard caught my eye a few weeks ago. Each time I passed it, I wanted to know the story behind it. Today I finally visited the site, Turns out there are ten pieces total, all the work of local artists and winners of a juried competition created by outdoor media company Reagan Advertising.

The Creative Director of Reagan’s Austin office, Adam Owen, says the idea for putting art on billboards came to him while working for a media company in the Southeast. When billboards weren’t being used, they typically left the space empty or posted public service ads that had “not-great creative.” He proposed featuring something more inspiring, and Art in the Air was born.

When he moved to Austin, he brought the idea with him. The Austin Art Boards call for entries in April 2011 generated 124 responses, “not bad for the first time,” according to Owen. The ten works that were selected are posted whenever and wherever a billboard is open, and will cycle throughout the city for as long as the vinyl billboard material lasts – probably up to five years.

Owen reports that although the boards haven’t directly generated business for Reagan, their sales team has heard plenty of positive comments from clients who think the project is cool and “perfect for Austin.” The 2012 call for entries will come this spring, and will be open to all local artists.

There’s no denying we live in a wildly creative city, and this becomes especially apparent every November — when the East Austin Studio Tour (E.A.S.T.) occurs.

Over two weekends and nine days, this annual self-guided tour invites Austinites and visitors to explore the work of hundreds of local artists in their studios east of IH-35.

The tour’s been going on since 2003, and this year’s event was the biggest yet. It’s a wonderful way to see artists in their “natural habitats” working in a wide range of mediums – everything from oil paint to wood to metal to clay to plants to upcycled materials.

What follows is an Instagrammatic sampling of E.A.S.T. 2011.

E.A.S.T. Studio Sign


Oil paintings on display at Soma Vida

Mural on East Cesar Chavez

Terrarium at Plaid Pigeon



Mask at Monsterlove studio

Sculpture by Erik Haglund at FireWork Blacksmithing studio


Sometimes, art is where you find it…for example, in the machinery at Delta Millworks…




Nightswimming, Barton Springs.

For this non-native Texan, one of the worst things about working and living in Austin is the summer heat. It starts early – we’ve already had six days of triple-digit temperatures – and ends late. Kids typically swelter through the first month and a half of school before things cool down in October.

Thankfully, GSD&M sits a mere mile from Barton Springs Pool, a three-acre spring-fed jewel that averages 68º F year-round. I know a few co-workers who jog or bike over there during lunch to dive in for a few invigorating laps. Nothing like the shock of that cool water to jolt you out of a heat-induced, idea-stunting stupor.

One of my favorite things to do lately is head there around 8:45 pm. The sun has just set, and there’s free admission from 9 – 10 pm. Swimming the springs illuminated by just a few overhead pool lamps and the moon is a wonder everyone should experience. The water’s crystal clear and the fish seem a bit bolder as they dart among the rocks and plants, almost as if daring swimmers to follow them.

Whether you go by day or by night, a swim in the springs is guaranteed to refresh you and your outlook – at least till the next day, when that mercury starts its steep ascent once again.

Come on in. The water’s fine.

What is this thing?

I have no idea, but I used to pass it every day in the stairwell en route to and from my second-floor office at GSD&M.

(I now office on the first floor, so I miss seeing it.)

For years, I’ve meant to ask our building manager what it was and what function it served, but I have yet to get around to doing that.

And, truth be told, I kind of enjoy not knowing.

I also enjoy just pondering this thingamajig – in all its intricate, colorful, whimsical, modern beauty.

Like many things in life, I suppose, I don’t have to understand it to appreciate it.

It’s cool.

It inspires me.

I like it.



When they’re bad, they’re good.

When they’re awful, they’re even better.

They’ve been around for ages. Shakespeare loved ’em. George Carlin did, too. And so do advertising copywriters – sometimes.

I’m talking puns, of course.

Ad agency creative departments have an unwritten rule against using them, though you’ll find plenty of groan-worthy examples among the award winners in advertising annuals. Perhaps the most celebrated is the classic NYNEX Yellow Pages campaign created by Chiat/Day in the late 80s. In addition to print ads and billboards like the one above, there was a series of tv spots featuring visual puns a-plenty.

GSD&M hasn’t been above a worthy pun in service of a client. After all, once upon a time our tagline for Southwest Airlines was “Just Plane Smart.”

Our hometown loves a good bad pun, too, as evidenced by Austin’s hosting of the annual O. Henry Pun-Off World Championship, the 34th installation of which takes place this Saturday, May 21, in the heart of downtown. Punslingers from near and far will compete in two contests. For “Punniest of Show,” entrants deliver 90 seconds of good, bad and ugly puns in the form of riddles, songs, sonnets, sermons, poems — you name it. For “Punslingers,” entrants compete in single-elimination rounds punning on selected topics. For example:

JUDGE:    The topic is “vegetables.” You each have five seconds to make a pun. Go!

CONTESTANT 1:    Well, lettuce proceed, then.

CONTESTANT 2:    Okay, but I’m gonna beet you.

CONTESTANT 1:    Ha! I don’t carrot all.

CONTESTANT 2:    Orange you glad you don’t? ‘Cause you’re gonna lose.


JUDGE:   An orange is not a vegetable. You’re disqualified. Peas leave the stage.

If you’ve never bean, I encourage you to turnip to laugh, groan and root for the contestants. I yam going to be there with my 11-year-old, who’s spinach-ing to squash the competition with the corniest puns she can radish out. If nothing else, it’s a great way to kale some time…