What was the next big thing at CES 2013?

4K technology quadruples the resolution on your TV. This image almost appears as 3D!

Walking onto the floor of CES 2013 you were mobbed . . . mobbed by TVs. Everywhere you turned you bumped into another display of TVs – big shiny 100+inchers; bowed-screened plasma units for optimal viewing anywhere in your living room; 4K TVs, smart TVs, everywhere TVs, TVs, TVs.

But if you looked past the forest for the tree you understood immediately what the “big thing” at CES 2013 was. No, not TVs. The big thing was freedom of choice.

Every bit of technology on that floor in someway frees us consumers from the mundane decisions we make every day to focus on the decisions that we’re truly passionate about.  The big thing in Vegas was what all those smart TVs will allow us to do. They will allow us to become our own programmers.

Imagine it: no more sifting through program guides to (hopefully) find something we want to watch.  These babies will record the shows we watch most frequently, some will even play them back to us with no commercials. Hulu or Netflix or Amazon will become our program guide or they will let us surf YouTube or Facebook and allow us to watch what our friends are watching.

That freedom will spread to all the other rooms in our homes.  The refrigerator will tell us what to make for dinner by keeping track of what food is in the fridge and when it will spoil. Cook that steak tonight before it goes bad. Oh and by the way, you need more milk. Your fitbit (another step counting bracelet) will tell you to keep walking if you truly want to lose those last 10 pounds. And that freedom will extend out to the driveway as well. Our cars will watch out for pedestrians so we can focus on the conversation we’re having with our GPS via bluetooth.

For the past decade marketers have been wringing their hands over the amount of choice and control consumers have.  Well, here comes the era when we consumers don’t even have to make conscious choices – our devices will be doing that for us.  That takes us into a “post-engagement” world.  It will no longer be about getting consumers to engage with our brands, we will have to come up with ways to make consumers care about choosing our brands.  The good news for marketers is, we now also have more options to choose from.  Game on!

This is what TVs looked like at CES just 3 short years ago.

 For a comprehensive overview the TVs on display at CES, check out this review at the Huffington Post.

Happy New Year from Travels from Mad Ave


This year has been mad.  And what saved me from it all, as usual, was my travels.  I started the year exploring, exploring my own backyard, by taking sailing lessons from Offshore Sailing School.  After almost 20 years of being rail meat, mostly on More Magic (a 33′ Frers), I finally took the helm and navigated my way around New York Harbor.

I have found fewer metaphors for life that are more accurate than sailing metaphors.  The greatest lesson I learned from my instructor, David Gayton was, “if what you’re doing isn’t working, do the opposite thing”.  That is the lesson I will take with me into 2013.  As we all ponder our resolutions, rather than chastise ourselves for not sticking to last year’s, or promise ourselves things that aren’t reasonable, my advice is to figure out what in your life is not working and then simply do the opposite thing.

So my travel resolution for 2013 is to knock off another continent.  I’ll finally be making my way to Australia (and New Zealand) in May, again with AFAR Experiences.  Between now and then I’ll be visiting Las Vegas once more for CES (I’ll spend one night following in Obama’s footsteps at the Westin Lake Las Vegas) and then on to Quebec/Montreal for a frigid night in the Hotel de Glace (that’s Ice Hotel in American). I hope you will continue to follow me.  I’ll soon be adding a polling feature to the site so you can start having a say in where I go and what I do (be kind, I don’t want to be another Idiot Abroad).

Cheers, Slainte, Sante, Prost, Salut, Yamas, Gesondheid & Kanpai to 2013!

Vivant au Bon Courage!

My love of adventure is well documented. I’m not sure that there is anything more adventurous than picking up, moving to a foreign country and embarking on a restoration project in a place where you know no one and barely speak the language. How romantic!
We were all introduced to this concept by Peter Mayle back in the 90’s with his “Year in Provence” series. Frances Mayes was able to build on the genre by doing the same in Italy in “Under the Tuscan Sun”, and even Elizabeth Gilbert managed to write a successful twist on the tale in the more peripatetic “Eat, Pray, Love’.
By all accounts I would have said this idea has been done. But, in “Bon Courage”, Ken McAdams proves that any good story can be retold . I had the pleasure of meeting Ken and his wife, Bing at a reading at the Yale Club (more on that later). Ken recaptured some of the more lively scenes in the book through his personal renditions. Foreign language gaffes are always much funnier when spoken! But what makes this story unique is the underlying theme of struggle. The challenges they faced in restoring their home were merely a metaphor for the struggles they faced in their dealing with loss (Ken’s wife had passed away, Bing was divorced), with their gain (they had met each other, married and in starting their “retirements” finally began realizing their dreams of writing and painting) and in discovering each other. The work being done along the way was more internal than external.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I was naturally inclined to like Ken from the start. Growing up an airline brat I’ve always had an affinity for pilots, Ken had flown in the Marines and went on to be a Pan Am pilot. I had the pleasure of joining them for after the reading, during which Ken recounted some of his many stories from flying around the world at the dawn of the era of air travel. At that time, any international airliner was at risk for hijacking but Pan “American” airlines was particularly interesting to terrorists. Early on Ken was flying a return trip back from Beijing. He got a call on the radio asking him if he would harbor an undocumented passenger. This was back during the height of Communist China and that request could mean any number of things. Ken, however, acquiesced and off they were back to the States. About a half hour into the flight, the trap door in the floor of the cockpit popped open from the cargo hold and out popped H.W. Bush! Imagine if that mission had not been successful. So that’s why signing up to restore a centuries old home in France didn’t seem so scary.
I have been so inspired by Ken’s courage to publish a book that many might have said had been written before. I think there is room for one about the pub in Ireland.

“In a capitalist society, we are saving lives”

I must attribute this comment to my good friend and colleague, Seth Kantor.  Quite often in advertising, as I’m sure in other industries, when we find ourselves killing ourselves to meet an unnecessarily ridiculous deadline, the common frustration is, “we are not saving lives here”.

But when we live in a society that values greed over good (sorry Gecko, greed is not good).  Our reactions to a stressful situation are not mental or emotional reactions; they are fundamentally physical reactions.  They are reactions to fear, so creating this sense of urgency gets to our society’s real fear of failure when it comes to economic success.

Our country’s dialogue over the past couple of years has reached a fever pitch over capitalist principles; whether we are talking about taxes, health care, the rights of unions, etc.  There have been cries of doom and gloom over the impact some of the new policies will have over innovation in our country.  I find those fears remarkable.  I’m not sure anyone could argue that China is not a source of great innovation and prosperity, yet it is a Communist country.  During our country’s heyday, the 50’s and early 60’s our tax rate was as high as 90% yet we still managed to be innovative and prosperous.

Our country should continue to value hard work, and reward such.  But if we value hard work over cooperation, compassion and responsibility to society as a whole, we do so at our own peril.

Disagreeing, agreeably

One of the greatest benefits of working in advertising is that every so often you get to attend private, invitation only events that you would not otherwise.   I had just such an opportunity when I was invited to The Economist magazine’s, “The World in 2011” Gala.  I was especially keen to attend as Bill Clinton was the honored speaker.  Anyone who has ever been in the physical presence of Bill Clinton can attest to not only his charisma, but his awe-inspiring knowledge of copious amounts of facts.  But it wasn’t Clinton who made the most important comment that night.

In the opening comments by David Franklin, the Executive Editor of The World in 2011, he spoke of The Economist’s mission of reporting the facts surrounding events around the world.  By providing readers with the facts, the readers are then left to form their own opinions.  And those opinions, he acknowledged, will vary.  This is where disagreement will arise.  Disagreement is inevitable.  The challenge today, however, is how do we get back to an era of disagreeing, agreeably.   That is what this country was founded on.  We have never agreed, but we have respectfully disagreed.  And those times, I would argue, have been the moments of our country’s greatest triumphs.

Good Capitalism v. Bad Capitalism

In a meeting this past week I heard a reference to the concept of good capitalism and bad capitalism.  I was waiting for a definition of the two, never quite got one.

When choosing a picture to represent this concept my first thought was a photo from Russia, instead I chose a shot from the last regatta I sailed in.  I am guessing that the flagrant exhibition of wealth that is on display at any regatta most certainly represents good capitalism.

That leaves me struggling to define bad capitalism.  I don’t think Naomi Klein (author of the The Shock Doctrine) would struggle too much.  In THE SHOCK DOCTRINE, Naomi Klein explodes the myth that the global free market triumphed democratically. Exposing the thinking, the money trail and the puppet strings behind the world-changing crises and wars of the last four decades, The Shock Doctrine is the gripping story of how America’s “free market” policies have come to dominate the world– through the exploitation of disaster-shocked people and countries.

In observing the attitudes of young Czech’s at the turn of the century she observes, “Where communism saw them only as potential producers, capitalism sees them only as potential consumers; where communism starved their beautiful capital, capitalism has overfed it, turning Prague into a Velvet Revolution theme park.”

What strikes me about the concept is that it is so illustrative of our political rhetoric today.  The extremes that drive all debate: you’re good or bad, right or wrong, left or right.  Democracy is defined as “a state of society characterized by formal equality of rights and privileges”.  A successful democracy requires compromise, the only way to realize equality for all is for every one to give and take.  So, as we enter this holiday season, a decade into our new century, let’s hope for the gift of tolerance and understanding – without it, we may be witnessing the end of the greatest democracy in history.

Travels from Mad Ave

So, I started this blog to document my hoped for amazing adventures as I travelled around the world – hence the Travels from Mad(ison) Avenue.  I was looking forward to leaving behind the insanity that had become my life as an advertising executive.  Well, as usual, life had different plans for me.  I did not travel around the world nor did I leave the ad world behind me – I am back.  Thankfully while I didn’t get what I thought I was going to in my time away, I did get other things, not what I expected, but what I needed.

So Travels from Mad Ave will now be about from as in, “from the perspective of” vs. from as in “being away from”.  I hope I can bring a different perspective “from” – I hope to bring humor without the stress of, the ego-fed insanity that has become the advertising industry.


If i can’t do

what i want to do

then my job is to not

do what i don’t want

to do
It’s not the same thing

but it’s the best i can

If i can’t have

what i want . . . then

my job is to want

what i’ve got

and be satisfied

that at least there

is something more to want
Since i can’t go

where i need

to go . . . then i must . . . go

where the signs point

through always understanding

parallel movement

isn’t lateral
When i can’t express

what i really feel

i practice feeling

what i can express

and none of it is equal
I know

but that’s why mankind

alone among the animals

learns to cry


 Nikki Giovanni


(photo: Indian Ocean, St. Lucia, South Africa, Nov. 2007)

The Road to Nowhere?

“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else” – Yogi Berra


Some of us get through life, some of us dive head first into life, sometimes we attack life and sometimes we just take it as it comes.  It occurred to me while strolling here (since these days I don’t run, hike or rush around like I used to) that the road ahead can be viewed either with fear and trepidation or excitement.  It can either be a twist leading us into the unknown or an entryway to the next great adventure.


Our lives often feel like this view into the unknown.  But by truly knowing ourselves, what is important and what we want to accomplish – the twists and turns along the way are nothing more than journey along the path that gets us there – take comfort in the knowledge that in the end, you know where you are going.


Contemplating Life

The summer is officially started and it was a beautiful start – warm, sunny, pool is blue and grass is green.  We did cheat death this winter, but that may have been the sole accomplishment.  Hopes were dashed, but the summer ushers in a season of new hope and new promise.  Welcome each day with the promise it offers and remember each evening that things will never be the same because of what you lived, dreamed, learned and accomplished today.