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Ad Biggies


And One Surprising Character
    
I was an Ad Biggie around the same time in which the Mad Men television series is set. 
     
It was the late 1960s, a little bit later than depicted in the show. By that later time people in the business were adjusting their lunch time drinking habits down to wine spritzers. My beverage of choice was a Campari and tall soda, squeeze of lemon wedge. Even so, there were still some pretty hard drinkers among us. I once had a lunch with one of those dyed-in-the-wool ad guys to celebrate an upward career move. Lunch at his club, and three generous martinis. I walked back to the office stiff as a zombie after the meal. Never again. Ouch. That sort of thing takes years of practice.
    
As you must know from Mad Men there was a terrific amount of cigarette smoking in the office. I was a cigar aficionado. The Nat Sherman No. 86 Panatela, natural wrapper, was my nail of choice. When you’re into smoking at the office as a more or less continuous feature of your work day, in that cloud of self-absorption it does seem to be an enjoyable experience. Until, however, when you decide to quit and have to live through the physical process of purging the built up tars and the taste of an ash tray from your system. At such a time you also get some appreciation for the suffering your smoke had on your co-workers. The former Mrs. Wronski used to tolerate my smoking at home. Never complained; that must have been a sign of true love. Although, I doubt that her complaints would have made any difference. She threw me out, finally. That made quite a difference. We sometimes have to learn the hard way.
    
The third wheel of the Ad Biz trilogy of decadence was, as they put it these days, “hooking up” with someone of the opposite gender at work. Correction, "from" work. "At" work; holly cow, you got to be crazy. Though I'm sure it has happened. Rich fodder for office gossip. I had my temptations as well. Human nature being what it is, I’m sure that is still out there, yet as they say… “Don’t dip your pen in the company ink well.” That’s always the best advice. Be strong, all you sexy beasts; keep strapped to those desks. Keep eyes on the screen at all times.
    
The advertising business, contrary to how it’s presented in the media, does in fact exact hard work and discipline. It’s not just some clever people lounging around drinking and smoking and copping feels dreaming up some clever little morsels to toss to the hoi polloi. That is, it wasn’t like that in the full service shops that I worked in. Creativity, to be sure, is an inspired art and needs some freedom to manifest. But in the commercial field, the professionals judge their product on results and formulate messages based on a clearly defined and researched communications strategy.
    
Even though the advertising industry is a fully professional enterprise, working with clients can bring out anyone’s self-promotion genes. There were more than a few such self-serving types in my time. Donald Trump comes to mind for no apparent reason since he was never in the game. But, he is a good (maybe too easy) prototype for the kind of person I am thinking about. Most of them we could see coming a mile away and they were the subject of not a little sniggering and put downs from their peers. Others play at getting ahead with good hard work. I fell into that latter aspirational group; but there are politics and you have to do your time in the barrel with the client from time to time. One reason for me to leave. Can you imagine having your livelihood on a daily bais at the mercy of whether or not your client is pleased? Most clients are professionals themselves, but in human relations, the demand to go along and kiss up does come along in every career. It is a very gradual process to arrive someday to the shocking realization that you have sold your soul for a bowl of soup.
    
I am remembering a fellow from my days assigned to the Singer Consumer Products (sewing machines and household appliances) account at JWT. We had both the advertising and publicity accounts with Singer. I once put my foot completely in my mouth by referring to publicity as “free advertising”. Not something your employer wants to hear you say to the client, since he is billing the client for hours as a publicist. In fact, publicity is not free advertising. Sure, the placement of a product or some information related to a product in the media is not paid for, as such (if it is, then shame on you); but, the leg work to get that publicity in print or on television does take a lot of professional doing.
    
The fellow I am recalling would usually be there when we had a big everybody to the table type meeting. He was ostensibly on retainer with the President of Singer as some sort of consultant. The basis for that relationship I never knew and you can speculate on what that might have been after you get to know the man yourself from the documentary that follows.
    
He was the kind of person I mentioned before. Clearly, a big talker and shameless self-promoter. He was a rather garrulous presence at meetings; assertive, full of confidence, and never at a loss for words and some clever comment. He gave me the impression that he was a getter and fixer with shadowy connections in high places. He was an intellectual and a bit of a philosopher.
    
It was he who submitted that the reason women were so involved with sewing was its metaphorical symbolism to the good old in-and-out: picture that sewing needle... thrusting, thrusting, thrusting; penetrating assertively, deeply, sliding into the folds of soft, yielding… Alright! Alright! We get it! We get it!
    
One other feature of the advertising business—probably any business for that matter—is that most of the people you work with you never see other than at the office. It was always quite a revelation and often surprising to meet your associate’s better half at some company function. Friendships are forged. I am still in touch with some of my old pals. But mainly, relationships stayed intra-mural and narrow. Probably one factor why I decided to leave the industry after I chose to live the holistic life and a path with heart. When you reflect on the amount of time you spend at a job, you begin to look at how much time that choice may be keeping you from a fuller life. I did. And, soon after, I was out of it. What followed is another story entirely. As the Pythons’ would say, “And now for something completely different.” Enough to say I became a Rolfer® A what?
    
So anyway, very recently here I am looking up some folks from my past Ad Daze. Speak about only having a narrow sense of your co-workers lives. The video you are about to see is an award winning documentary by the daughter of the fellow I mention.
    
 Who knew? And, if they did, what was in it for them?
    
As I said, you generally don’t get to really know the people you meet in business. In this one case, what has come to light is both intriguing but definitely shocking: Strong stuff. Be advised. (One of my colleagues from that era reported feeling very upset.)
mature subject matter viewer discretion advised

The Marina Experiment…

Mature subject matter viewer discretion advised



The Marina Experiment from Marina Lutz on Vimeo.

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