Lessons From Dear Old Dad

By Jim Mathis

Over the years my father taught me many life lessons. Some seemed trivial and even silly at the time; while others felt like he was passing down great wisdom, as if he was transferring the weight of the world from his shoulders to mine. At times I think his lessons were carefully planned, and sometimes his teaching was delivered accidently in the course of our everyday lives. But each time he shared his ideas, insights and challenges, I grew as a man and he helped to shape the person I would become.

When I was young, my father would take me fishing. He taught me to be patient and wait for the excitement that would come when the fish began to bite. While those moments of exuberance were sometimes few and far between, the time we spent waiting became a chance to talk one on one with the guy I looked up to. Somehow through those times I learned the virtue of patience was far more valuable than bragging about what we caught.

GooseCallThe time I spent hunting ducks with Dad was much the same. We’d get up early, drive an hour or so, take the boat across a dark river. We’d set the decoys in the still water and climb into the duck blind, long before the sun began to rise. We’d sit and wait to hear the whistle of teal flying past. We would talk quietly while our eyes scanned the sky, waiting for our chance to bag a mallard or gadwall. Some days we’d shoot our limit of ducks and proudly bring our bounty home while the morning was still young. Other days we’d sit and talk, occasionally calling in vain to ducks on the horizon. Hours later we’d pack up and head home empty handed. It was on those days, without ever saying it, Dad taught me that hunting was more about time spent in the field, less about the contents of our bag.

When our outdoor excursions were successful, he taught me to carefully clean the fish and fowl, to respect the animals and use what we had harvested. While that lesson was important, I think he also wanted to delegate the dirty work, and I was happy to help. Then we’d go inside and clean our guns and neatly put away the decoys, calls and other equipment. A place for everything and everything in its place, a lesson learned.

When it came time to cook, he taught me to neatly stack charcoal briquettes into a dusty black pyramid in the old Weber kettle. He would douse the stack in lighter fluid then strike a match and toss it in. We’d watch in awe as the flames reached high into the air, the smell of petroleum was thick in the backyard and I was proud to be part of the ritual. I’ve since learned to fire up the grill without all of the chemicals and fuss, but I still think about him whenever I strike a match. The smell of sulfur and smoke take me back every time.

As I grew older, Dad taught me an appreciation for many of the finer things in life, from the pleasure of a good steak; to the sweet and briny goodness of an oyster you shucked yourself. He also showed me how to enjoy the simple pleasure of a good libation. Over the years we shared many fine Scotches, bourbons and ryes. And even though I’d moved hundreds of miles away, we’d talk on the phone and compare notes on a new (or perhaps 18 year old) Scotch one of us had discovered. He’d save me samples, and when we could get together we’d enjoy a glass. When he passed away last winter, many of my friends who had come to call him a friend as well lifted a glass of fine bourbon or Scotch in his honor.

Many years ago, mom and dad were called into to my kindergarten teacher for a conference. The teacher firmly encouraged my parents to be honest with their son about what dad did for a living. My folks were a little perplexed; I’d been to dad’s office and seen what he did, so what was the problem? Apparently, when the teacher had asked each child what their dad did for a living, I had said “he colors.” Mom and Dad said I was right. I went to his office and he was there drawing pictures and coloring them in with markers. That’s what art directors did back then.

I think that may have been the most important thing he did. My dad got me interested in dad2advertising. He had worked in advertising as I was growing up. I thought it was so cool that he got to create ads and brochures. I wanted to do that when I grew up. By watching him as I grew up, I think I learned as much about advertising as I did in college. Without his wisdom and encouragement, I would not be where I am today.

Six years ago I started writing a column for Etc. For Her Magazine. Every month I’d send copies of the magazine to Des Moines for my Dad. He would often call with comments (or corrections). When his health began to fail, Mom would read the articles to him. Through that humble publication, Sioux Falls became his favorite place to visit. He would arrive with a list of new restaurants to visit and places to see, all based on what he learned from Etc. for her.

So this Father’s Day as I remember all my dad did for me, let’s all drink toast for the men who taught us to ride our bikes, to know right from wrong and what it meant to be loved. Here’s to you, Dear Old Dad, and all the other Dads out there.

Falls Park Farmers Market 2014 Campaign

Because we love advertising AND local produce so much, every year ADwërks puts together a humble, yet bold ad campaign for the Falls Park Farmers Market, the largest farmers market in Sioux Falls with over 100 years under its belt.

The campaign consists of periodic email blasts that let customers know what’s new and in season at the market along with some print ads in the Argus Leader. The concept behind this year’s campaign was to position the idea of buying local produce from people in your community against faceless factory farming, rather than just doing things like childishly, yet still hilariously, drawing similarities between produce and the human anatomy, like we did last year. See a few examples of this year’s ads below, along with the aforementioned immature ads below that.









Ice Cream Bars Get Canned

After a long period of inadequate performance, we have decided to let go of Dean’s Country Fresh Neapolitan Ice Cream Sandwiches, 10 pack. The decision was made after careful contemplation, and we believe it was in the best interest for both parties.

These things are never pretty.

These things are never pretty.

At first we were excited to have Dean’s ice cream bars aboard. They were fresh out of the grocery store and filled with potential and wonderment, and seemingly had a lot to offer our agency. But when the honeymoon phase was over, they quickly became stale and jaded (with ice crystals), and ceased to provide any kind of long-term value to our team. There’s just not enough room in our freezer for a snack that falls short of greatness; we simply can’t afford that kind of drain on our resources.

We’ve felt this way for a long time now. Having to see the underwhelming, freezer-burnt treat every day was a constant reminder of our oversight in bringing a less-than satisfactory snack to the company; we’re normally a better judge than that. At first we tolerated the once-celebrated bars out of pity, and just pretended they weren’t there. But we couldn’t hide from the truth any longer, as the ice cream sandwiches began getting in the way of everything we wanted to accomplish, from grabbing some ice cubes to getting the coffee. We just couldn’t have them interfering with our progress any longer.

Dean’s Country Fresh Neapolitan Ice Cream Sandwiches, 10 pack, had been with us since the summer of 2012 – longer than some of our employees – but that doesn’t change the fact that the bars failed to perform on a consistent basis, after being given multiple chances.

“As a business owner, it’s disappointing when you invest so much in an individual snack, only to see its potential go unrealized,” said Principal Jim Mathis.

It was a tough call to make, but we believe it was the right one. We’ve learned and grown from this experience, and feel that we are now more equipped to select future snacks that better align with our core values and company culture.

We wish we could say this relationship ended on good terms, but it didn’t. Let’s just say that Dean’s ice cream sandwiches had to be escorted out of the building.

– Andrew

No Green Beer for Me

By Jim Mathis

Let me start by saying I am not Irish. Mostly Welsh and German, and like most American mutts, I’m sure there are several other nationalities sprinkled in my family tree. But to the best of my knowledge, there’s no Irish. However, like many Americans, for one day in March, I put on a green sweater and celebrate my faux-Irish heritage.

In my younger and wilder days, I would gather with a group of friends early in the day for eggs and corned beef hash before heading downtown for the parade. There we would crowd into bars, drink too much unnaturally-green beer and regret our actions on the morning of March 18. Now I’m more likely to raise a glass of Guinness in the comfort of my own home. For some reason, the idea of drinking a gallon of beer and laced  with food coloring no longer holds any appeal to me. Perhaps it’s the memory of those pain-filled mornings after.

Speaking of green drinks, my bride (and I’m sure a few others out there) look forward to St. Patty’s Day for a whole different (and non-alcoholic) reason. Every year as the first of March approaches, she knows the Shamrock Shake will return to the Golden Arches. While she can resist a shake for most of the year, the cold minty appeal of the green drink draws her into the drive-thru every year.

Forgive me for focusing on beverages, but St. Patrick’s Day is often cited as one of the top drinking days of the year, so it seems natural. And since we’re talking about drinking, let’s look at whiskey. The whiskeys from the Emerald Isle are not nearly as celebrated as those from Scotland, but they should not be overlooked. After all, it is believed the word whiskey has it’s origins in Ireland. The Gaelic phrase “uisge beatha” literally means “water of life.” Then the Scots borrowed the phrase and changed it to usquebaugh,” before the English shortened that to “whiskey.”

A discussion of Irish whiskey generally leads to the two big names; Jameson and Bushmills. Now if you’re a good Irish lad or lass, this is an easy choice determined not by taste but by religion. You see Jameson is from Dublin, and if the roots of your family tree are in Dublin, chances are you are Catholic. But Bushmills, while it is a fine whiskey, is distilled in Northern Ireland and that means Protestant. Put another way, Irish Catholics often say that whiskeys from the North “are filtered through the wrong bible.” Order the wrong brand in a stubbornly patriotic Irish bar and you might end up in fight. Who knew ordering a drink could cause such a ruckus?

I don’t want to start any battles, so I’ll just call it Irish whiskey and let you decide which brand (and church) will make yours. For years, I thought of whiskey as primarily a man’s drink. Not to sound sexist, but a whiskey on the rocks can be an acquired taste, and maybe it’s just the women I know, but they have tended to stay away from the brown liquor. But recently I’ve noticed a lot of women ordering Irish whiskey – my wife and my sister among them. The drink that has lured them? Irish whiskey and ginger ale. I’ve seen it called a Big Ginger, a Phlump or a Classy Irishman. Call it what you like, it’s a simple cocktail to make and a great alternative to a boring rum and Coke.

But I digress, St. Patrick’s Day isn’t all about drinking, it is also the time when everyone makes corned beef and cabbage, just exactly the way their Irish forbearers didn’t. That’s right; the corned beef we all associate with this distinctly Irish holiday isn’t a big deal in Ireland. Back in the motherland, they probably would have eaten bacon and cabbage and their pork in the dish would have been more like what we call Canadian bacon. Confused? When the Irish immigrants got to this side of the pond, they simple couldn’t afford the more expensive pork, so they substituted cheaper salted and cured cuts of beef. And the tradition was born, not out of heritage, but necessity. So where would Irish Americans get their corned beef? From a good Jewish delicatessen, of course, because their culture has been kosher curing beef brisket for centuries.

While corned beef and cabbage get all the glory this time of year, it’s not the only meal with Gaelic roots. A rich shepherd’s pie is just about the perfect comfort food and if you want to make it special for the holiday, throw a little Guinness in the gravy. Add a couple of slices of soda bread with caraway seeds and currants and you have a bona fide Irish feast.

I think this year, we’ll head down to watch the parade, but when the young (and young and heart) move inside for a green-tinted Miller Lite, we’ll head for home and stay out of the fray. On the way home, we will pick up a Shamrock Shake for Kara, then I’ll open a pint of dark, rich extra stout beer for myself. I’ll make a pot of savory lamb stew. After dinner, we’ll tip back a wee bit of Irish whiskey, (mine on the rocks, hers with ginger ale) and remember that underneath our green sweaters, we’re just a Welsh boy married to a Scandinavian girl.

Do yourself a favor, eat something good today.

This article originally ran on the March 2011 issue of Etc. for Her magazine.