How I Got to Madison Avenue. And beyond.

As with life, this blog is developing and changing. It began with a lot of stories that occurred on my career path from Albany to Madison Avenue and back.

There were some similarities to the AMC series "Mad Men," and then I went even farther back in time with a somewhat fictionalized version of growing up in Troy's Little Italy.

And now, a new development. As my free lance advertising and marketing career winds down, I'm becoming more interested in the theatre arts that my father and his 3 brothers helped instill in me as I grew up.

As a result, I've volunteered to help promote the Theatre Institute at Sage, and now, to continue a long-interrupted desire to be behind the proscenium, I've joined the newly formed Troy Civic Theatre, and was actually fortunate enough to appear in their first production.

So, I hope you'll enjoy the new stories that will develop from this latest turn.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Free Ad Strategy Finder

Since my days in the Madison Avenue mainstream, I've adapted and used a 10-question, one-page form that I guarantee will help any creative team to deliver a creative strategy that will deliver what every client wants:  effective, on-target, tailored ad campaigns.
There are just two problems:  one is getting the client to concentrate enough to fill it out and get all the decision-makers to agree on the answers.  The other is getting the creative team to stay on strategy.
With just those caveats, today I'm giving away the Visco Creative Strategy Brief.
Feel free to use it, and if you do, I hope you'll let me know the results.

Visco Creative Strategy Brief

Who is the client? ____________________________________________________________

What is the brand? ___________________________________________________________

BUSINESS PROBLEM/OPPORTUNITY: : Given the brand’s total marketing situation, what is the key problem or opportunity that advertising must address? _____________________________________________________________

CONSUMER ACTION OBJECTIVE: What action do we want the target consumer to take, given our marketing objective – try, retry, use the brand more, etc.? ___________________________________________________________________

TARGET CONSUMER: Who are we talking to – in other words, what is the target consumer profile? _____________ _______________________________________________________________________________________________

RESPONSE FROM ADVERTISING: What response do we want from consumers to our advertising? (This should contribute to achieving the Consumer Action Objective.) __________________________________________________

COMPETITIVE SET: What competitive choices is the target consumer currently considering in addition to or instead of our brand?_____________________________________________________________________________________________

CONSUMER PROMISE: What is the one rational, sensory, situational or psychological benefit that will have the most influence on shaping the target consumer’s perception of our brand in the desired way? _______________________________________________________________________________________________

SUPPORT: What are the key ideas or facts that justify the promise? ________________________________________

How will we address the consumer? ____________________________________________________________________
What style or feeling will the advertising convey? ________________________________________________________
What image do we wish to portray? ___________________________________________________________________

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Listen to this talented young troubadour. Proud to call him Grandson.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Another Opening, Another Show...

As predicted, today is a great day to be visiting open houses in the Capital District.

But before we get to our commercial, click here to enjoy the Muppets performing the famous opening number from "Kiss Me Kate."

And now, back to our commercial: Today, smack in the middle of the Capital District, with a great view and Mohawk River/Erie Canal access, is my 2nd open house, from 2:30 to 4:30. At 228 Forts Ferry Road, right where the Colonie Bike Path crosses.

You'll find it easy to get to, and hard to leave.

Preview here.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Last winter (you remember last winter, don't you?) there was one extremely cold Saturday. It happened to be the day that I was scheduled to appear as the judge in two enhanced staged readings of the play, "The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge" by the recently-formed Troy CivicTheatre.

It was also the day that a furnace that heats half of my house on the Mohawk quit.

It could have been a disaster, but it was avoided. The outcome was so good, in fact, that I, a seasoned creative director and advertising copywriter, wrote a testimonial for the local outfit that saved the day, Umbrella of Colonie. Here's what I wrote:

They say the show must go on, and it did, thanks to Umbrella of Colonie. It happened on the Saturday a week before Christmas Eve – the Saturday of the first fund-raising production of a new community theatre company, the Troy Civic Theatre. And on the coldest day of the year.

I was cast in a pivotal role – the irascible judge who presides at “The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge,” a “sequel” to Charles Dickens' “A Christmas Carol,” in which the old miser sues his dead partner, Jacob Marley, and the Spirits of Christmas for all the indignities they subjected him to a year before.

As I was preparing to leave the house for a mid-morning call, I noticed that one half of the house was colder than the other. A furnace was not working. I had a half an hour to get to Troy, and no way to get to the furnace, which is in a crawl space under my unusual house. And no handyman skills to fix it, even if I could get to it.

I've been a member of Umbrella of Colonie for a couple of years now, because for a nominal monthly fee based on income, the service is on call for all sorts of services, emergency and otherwise. They screen the people who do the work – painting, cleaning, home and lawn maintenance and repairs of all kinds, provide carbon monoxide detectors, perform a safety check – and regulate the hourly fees for the work. It's a service that helps seniors like me stay in their homes, safe and secure.

I called, left a detailed message about the problem and how to get to the furnace, left the back door open, and got to the theatre on time, and while I was on stage, the workman showed up, sized up the problem, and left his number with the assistant at the theatre.

I called him back when the show was over and the applause died down, and as soon as the parts were available early the next week, the HVAC expert showed up on time, got the furnace working and even saved me money by finding and solving a smaller problem than originally suspected.

So, if you're a senior in the Town of Colonie, and you haven't signed up for the services of Umbrella of Colonie, I have just one question for you: Why the dickens not?

A couple of months ago, I decided to have Umbrella of Colonie recommend others who could get my house in tip-top shape so I could put the house on the market. My judgments of them was the same -- I was very pleased with the painter, window washer, fence menders and pressure-washers they provided.

And just as Umbrella of Colonie's April newsletter showed up, this listing appeared. (You can see photos of the house and the incredible view there.)

So the judging didn't stop there, of course. Over the past couple of weeks, many people have come to see and judge my house.

And one was even a judge. A real one.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bella Vita

Thursday night was the kickoff dinner of an exciting new project for Troy's Little Italy, called "Bella Vita," which means beautiful life.

Andrea Daley, who created this new exciting project to fill Little Italy with frescoes by local artists, asked me to emcee the ceremony and to describe what living in Little Italy was like in the past. This is part of those remarks. I'm not sure she wanted me to go back this far, but I'll start in the late 1800's.

(Outside of my family stories and experiences, everything else I know about the neighborhood comes from Mike Esposito, who knows all and tells all, and all you have to do is ask him. He's also written a wonderful photo and history book of the area, “Troy's Little Italy,” which you can find at your local bookstore.)

My parents were the youngest children of the Viscos

and the LaPostas –

-- two families that had a lot in common, their patriarchs arriving from Italy just about a generation after our Civil War, which coincided with the long overdue unification of Italy. My grandparents were also two of the original eleven families who helped to establish the “Italian Church,” St. Anthony's.

Antonio and Philomena Visco raised their family in a ramshackle house they owned. It had 4 tiny flats, and was moved in the late 1800's from Williams Street Alley around the corner and up to Liberty Street, between St Mary's & Haverman's Avenues. I can only imagine the teamwork that must have taken, with neighbors pitching in with their muscle, ingenuity and home-made wine.

My father had three brothers and four sisters, and outside of the daily grind of homemaking, working in laundries, foundries, factories, haberdasheries, and local politics, the Visk family, as they came to be known, loved putting on shows in order to raise money for St. Anthony's, and for other local organizations. During World War Two, the beneficiary was the USO. Everyone in the neighborhood was welcome to participate, either in front of or behind the curtain.

When I came along, our property was a four ring circus, full of people playing good-natured practical jokes in a cramped backyard that had a pond, a garden, a boccie court, and a green “banquet hall” built and named by Uncle Jimmy, so the family could gather for communal meals in bad weather. My mother renamed it “The Barracks,” because that's what it looked like, and the name stuck. Uncle Jimmy was not too happy about that. When I say the family gathered in the backyard, I don't just mean blood relatives. I remember neighbors and friends and even Franciscan priests being part of the fun. And not everyone was Italian, either. Italian boys fell in love with Irish girls and they were welcome, as were many friends and neighbors whose families came from all over the world.

As the years went on, some stayed, and some moved away – to other parts of the city, to the suburbs, even to careers in major cities.

But a spirit of family, and support for building a prosperous future stayed with us all. It never died. It grew, it brought some of us back, and it continues to attract people who sense that something special is still alive in Little Italy today. That same cooperation, tolerance and true camaraderie that moved houses and shared entertainment and meals seems to have become part of the buildings, the streets, the very air.

People still move here and stay here because of it. And it's that spirit that brings us together here tonight to start this project. People who were born here, people who feel that their lives are reborn here --- all who want to be – need to be – part of keeping it alive and helping it grow. That's why we need people like Andrea – a bundle of energy and talent that's focused on encouraging the growth of that spirit – one that I believe will live forever in Little Italy, and spread throughout the city – becoming our own renaissance. I hope you'll take a few more minutes to visit this webpage, learn more about the wonderful Bella Vita project and contribute as an artist or a sponsor.