My Advertising Life

Before becoming a personal trainer in 2004, I had a 25+ year career as an advertising agency executive and consultant.  Here are some of the advertising campaigns that I was involved in and a little story about each. Some have links to TV commercials some have examples of magazine or newspaper ads. The ad agencies I worked were known at the time as Jordan Case & McGrath, GeersGross, Lowe Marschalk, Wells Rich Greene, and Favara & Raffle.  

This was my very first assignment as an account executive and the agency then known as Jordan, Case & McGrath. Deer Park was the top regional brand, and the idea of New Yorkers paying for water when we had the world's best water supply was novel at the time.  Pretty much restricted to area where the pipes were bad.  Perrier was the new craze.  Uncarbonated bottled water was sold in big jugs, it would be many years before single serve water became a business.  We did a ton of research to come to the conclusion that it was all about the taste.  I think the slogan "Deer Park that's good water!" by copywriter Vickie Logan, is still in use today.

My involvement in this account at Geers Gross Advertising was very brief, the best part was that we had a really great and funny ad campaign, and when you visited the client in Philadelphia, you got a taste of fresh-off-the-line Breyer's ice cream every day at 3PM.   Sam Breakstone was portrayed by Michael Vale, and Kraft was not happy when he became even more famous for Dunkin's "gotta make the donuts."  The first day on the job, my desk collapsed.  The second day, we arrived at the clients office and were greeted by a marketing director storming down the hall and screaming "you may as well get right the f*** on the train and go back to New York...."  He was having a bad day, there were many more to come.  Six months later, and 15 pounds heavier, I made a move to a new job.

This was the first commercial in which Diet Sprite was advertised separately from regular Sprite.  I was the account executive at Lowe Marschalk, it was a monster sized account and my main contribution was writing a formal letter to the client to recommend separate advertising and a budget allocation formula.  My boss insisted on attending this shoot, but I would get to meet supermodel Carol Alt at a shoot later that year and got a hug from her.  Several years later, a very pretty lady with the last name Porizkova was the head nurse in the maternity ward at Lenox Hill Hospital when my daughter Megan was born.  I was struck by her appearance and the name, and learned she was Paulina's mother.  We chatted about how she escaped the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, but Paulina could not get out from behind "the iron curtain,"  but Paulina couldn't get out and lived with relatives until they were reunited years later.   I even finally got to meet Paulina and her husband Rick Ocasek - our kids coincidentally had birthdays parties at the same time at LazerTag, very nice people.


Remember that scene in Dr. Strangelove where Col. Bat Guano warns Capt.Mandrake "You're gonna have to answer to the Coca-Cola Company"?  I was the account executive when this campaign began on a Sunday night in 1983, a total sneak attack on 7-Up by Sprite.  The Coca-Cola Company was stinging from advertising that pitted "caffeine free 7-Up" against colas, and "Pepsi challenge" taste test ads against Coke.  While testing a reformulation of Sprite to save money, Coke discovered that people preferred the taste of Sprite to 7-Up.  Previously, Sprite was running beautiful typical 80s big budget soft drink campaigns  like "When you're reaching for more reach for Sprite."    Millions per week were spent to get this simple taste test message message out.  The first night kicked of with Sprite commercials running simultaneously on all 3 network in prime time, first in one show then in the next, a technique we called vertical and horizontal roadblocking.   This was pre-cable and internet, so literally everyone was watching the networks and saw the commercials twice that night. As the network tv campaign broke, copies of the commercial were shipped to 685 local television stations, for media buys placed by Coke's independent bottler network.  Bottlers got fully behind Sprite as a fighting brand, and drove business through local ads and displays in stores.  7-Up fought really hard to get the networks to pull the campaign advertising, but their own research also proved that Sprite was better tasting. 7-Up was about three times as big as Sprite when this campaign started, with a 6% market share vs 2%.  Immediately, Sprite sales began increasing at a 20% rate.  Today, the market positions of these brands are reversed, with Sprite leading the lemon-lime segment.  By the way, if you liked that vintage Sprite commercial with the jingle, here is another and another.)

I was account supervisor on Hi-C Fruit Drinks, and one of the brand managers at Coke called me into his office to discuss a project he just picked up: "assess the downside risk of a new, flexible, longer straw for drink boxes in multiple colors."  Until that time, the #1 consumer complaint with drink boxes in our research was that the straws were too short and got lost in the box.  I saw nothing but opportunity, went back and convinced my creative team Terri Walker and Nancy Librett to come up with a special commercial for the straw.  Coke management bought it instantly.
We already had the campaign with kids lip-synching to do wop classics, so it was just another in the campaign but arguable one of the best.  We all got awards from the agency for creating the best commercial of the year, and won an EFFIE from the Ameican Marketing Association.  Here is another commercial from the campaign, a fun little postcard from Zuma Beach.

"Show it from the cat's point of view" was the advice phoned in from Mary Wells Lawrence, the legendary founder of our ad agency.  I was vice president and account supervisor, but I was able to sit back and let my creative team led by Ed McCable do their magic on this one.  

I invented this product, a low fat high fiber cat food.  The client needed something new to keep a competitor from getting into the soft-moist cat food category, people thought Tender Vittles were fattening, and everyone in America was getting into exercise and health.  John Steinhardt and Jack McGee came up with avery 80's gym-cat theme, also used in TV commercials.  This may have been the most fun launch ever.  The Purina people were wonderful, and we launched with a "fattest cat in America" contest on Regis and Cathy.

They wanted a "cutting edge" teen campaign, we sure gave them one! .  The late great Bill Yamada was executive creative director along with Marcia Grace, I was vp account supervisor and pretty much running the account.  Some of my clients were Coke alum, we'd worked together before. Producer Rhoda Malamet, Bill and I spent about a month in Australia filming this campaign that made the client and agency brass so nervous we were almost fired.  I introduced the campaign to 600 bottlers in Disneyworld, who gave it a standing ovation. It saved the brand.  Sunkist had competition from Minute Maid and Slice and could no longer afford the royalties for Beach Boys Good Vibrations.
Unfortunately, our clients fell in love with the jingly demo music track that we presented to them early in the process.  Bill had two up and coming bands lined up to record the music.  We discovered INXS in Australia, they were about to begin their US tour and become a superband, New Order had just released a song that would become one of the all time club classics, you can hear it in this Sunkist rough cut adapting Blue Monday .  We couldn't believe how lucky we were to have these bands willing to work with us, yet we couldn't sell either band to the client.  It wasn't about the money, they loved the AM radio sound of the original demo.

It was 1990, the Berlin Wall had just fallen.  We were pitching for the Seagram's Wine Coolers account against formidable competition from Ogilvy and DDB, I was leading the team pitching the account. We really wanted the business, it was the only television-advertising brand in the House of Seagram, and a huge challenge to resuscitate this brand after former spokesperson Bruce Willis melted down.  Creative directors Ron Hartley and Ray Hirschman came up with the winning concept, somewhat safe but it made everyone smile and was perfect for celebrating the times.  We hired the solid as a rock team of Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson to arrange and record the music.  Aside from being incredibly talented legends...they were a beautiful couple together, and two of the nicest people you could ever meet.  The video isn't very clear on this video, but you can enjoy the music.

OIL OF OLAY "PROMISES" (Procter & Gamble)
Olay was #1 by far in its category, but this campaign from Bruce Bloch and Patti Rockmore blew the lid off and was adapted for global use (note UK name and product at the end).  I was vp management supervisor at Wells Rich Greene, responsible for keeping a large team on strategy and budget, and endless presentations because P&Gers from around the world wanted to visit us and hear the thinking behind our success.  While "Promises" was running and building record market share, we tested an Olay commerical from Australia, which was very successful there and will remind you of Top Gun.
 Unfortunately it didn't translate very well to the US consumer; It bombed in focus groups and copy-testing, but because it did well in markets outside the US we were required to do an in market test. "Top Gun" ran in a large portion of the US for several months. Market share dropped in test markets while it grew in the rest of the country, and it went back up as soon as the "Top Gun" spot was replaced with "Promises."  Olay was another monster account to work on, we were constantly developing, producing and testing backup campaigns and new product concepts, and ran hundreds of pages of gorgeous magazine ads.

BLACKGLAMA MINK (American Legend Mink Cooperative fka Great Lakes Mink Assoc.) 

Glama is an acronym for Great Lakes Mink Association, Black because it is dark natural ranch mink.  My late great partner/creative director Len Favara created the ongoing look of this campaign, including the "fatface" type" while he was creative director at Peter Rogers Associates.  That agency literally invented this brand, including the name, and made it #1. These include some early ads that precede my time working on this long-running series.  Many of the ads in the series were photographed by legends Bill King and Richard Avedon.  My agency handled the account in it's last years, working with Peter Rogers.  Each Legend received only the "honor" and a Blackglama Mink coat as compensation for appearing.  The client fired us for political reasons, they and their new agency hired Giselle to be a legend, paid her $1 million - and as the ads ran she told everyone that she didn't wear fur she just did it for the money. Other Blackglama Legends included  Liz Taylor, Barbra Streisand, Louis Armstrong, Betty Davis, Lauren Bacall, Diana Ross, Joan Crawford, Julie Andrews, Carol Channing, Lucille Ball, Judy Garland and Liza Minelli - over 70 in total.)

Lenny and Peter created the first campaign for these very stylish and expensive creations.  Peter, known as king of the one liners, got off easy on the first campaign which simply had the brand name and ran for 20+ years. (example will be posted soon).

This ad from the second campaign is vintage Peter.  The company's new owners wanted to attract younger customers who thought Leiber bags were old hat.  Peter wrote a new campaign with great attitude, to appeal to young socialites and those who wanted to be one. We kept the account, winning a competition with some other agencies, only to lose it 5 years later when the company was sold yet again.

I had the privilege of working with this client for nearly 20 years, mainly with Carole Dixon and later Laurie Burns; Carole created Forty One Madison (which is the Tabletop Building) and Laurie carries on the work. In the later years of my agency, I was a strategic confidante and writing copy like their current tagline "where the most important brands and buyers meet", along with web campaigns, overseeing their website and email and database marketing.  And a friend.

But the work I am proudest of was an ad that we created when Bill Rudin became president of the company.  It is a classic example of Len Favara (white space, great sense of type) and Peter Rogers (few words perfectly chosen).  The ad ran once on  the back of the NY Times business section.  Everyone who needed to see it got the message.

They never had a real ad campaign before they came to Favara &  Raffle. My job was to get us all agreed on strategy and then turn Peter, who was working with us, and Lenny loose.  For those of you who don't know the store, it is a large hardware and housewares store in NYC, know for exceptional service and selection, but also for high prices.  Until this time, I thought Peter was just a creative magician.  But with no money for research he and I called everyone we knew and asked them questions which would lead us to a strategy and help us sell or recommendation to the client.   I summed it up "you can go all over town looking for what you want, or just go to Gracious Home.  It is worth the money."  Which Peter turned into their long running campaign theme "Look no further."

We made the ads look like they were for a high end jewelry store and -to the complete surprise of the NY Times rep -were able to run some of them on the prestigious first 5 pages of the Times.  The ad on the right is an updated version of the original campaign that Bill Yamada did with Peter (after Lenny got sick and retired).

Remember this internet boom?  My agency had some of these clients too.  The nice thing was that I could get really talented creative people like Tom Hart and Dan Weitzman to work with me on projects like this, because it was an opportunity to hang out in cheezy diners and my cool Soho loft office, and do great work.  Here are Ray and Jenny, two talented young agency staffers posing as college students.  The behind the campaign was that you could put your resume on this website and the jobs would find you. The company was sold before we could run the campaign and make any money.

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