overpaid, drive BMW's, and will sell our souls for a great campaign.
That is patently false. Not all of us drive BMW's."
-Young & Rubicam Account Supervisor, c. 1975
In 1970 the Vietnam War was raging, Richard Nixon was president, and the Beatles were still together. Box-office winners included Love Story, M*A*S*H, and Patton. The most popular show on television was Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, followed by Gunsmoke and Bonanza. Radio was dominated by AM stations playing rock 'n roll, with Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge over Troubled Water" winning record of the year at the Grammys. Life had a weekly circulation of eight million, and People was just an idea. Another leading magazine, Playboy, was in a fight with upstart rival Penthouse over whose centerfold would expose more in each month's issue.
Advertising was rolling along as a $19.5 billion business, with most agencies privately owned by their founders or a very few shareholders. For the most part, they answered only to their clients and were filled with entrepreneurial spirit. Superstars such as Farrah Fawcett (Faberge) and Joe Namath (Brut) were being paid big money to endorse products. Gillette's Dry Look ("the wethead is dead") was being introduced, and Coke was "the real thing."
The year started normally enough, but by the time it ended some significant and lasting changes had taken place. The World Trade Center was completed, a Boeing 747 flew its first commercial flight, and Kent State exploded. Monday Night Football began its first year, with Dandy Don Meredith, Howard Cosell, and Keith Jackson in the broadcast booth. And at the end of that year, cigarette advertising was kicked off TV and radio, ending some sponsorships that had begun in broadcasting's infancy.
That year I was fresh out of college, beginning a career that would lead me into some of the biggest wars in the advertising game, including some that had raged for decades. There were the gasoline wars (remember Platformate?), the snack wars (remember "tastes as good as its crunch"?), the soup wars (remember "soup is good food"?), and the cola wars (remember "The Pepsi Challenge"?), among others.
Thirty years later, these wars, and lots of new ones, are still being fought. Some with different names, sometimes on different turf, but the battles continue. And the stakes are even higher now, with the recognition that established brand names are worth big bucks in these days of generics and product proliferation. As a liberal arts major, I knew little about how these wars were fought, but I knew I wanted to fight in them.
Five weeks after graduation from college I was in "boot camp" at one of Madison Avenue's biggest ad agencies, learning how to be a good "soldier." In this book I relate my experiences in these wars-how I went from knowing very little about marketing and advertising into an experienced "combat veteran." Along the way I met and worked with some of the smartest, most experienced people in the business. I also met some of the most bizarre, and in some cases, not-so-smart people in advertising. Whatever else they were, they were interesting people in an interesting business.
During those thirty years, I worked with some of the biggest and best companies in the world as clients. Companies such as Milton Bradley, Procter & Gamble, Gulf Oil, Frito-Lay, Pizza Inn, Coca-Cola, Campbell's Soup, and Texas Instruments. And even the smartest of them did dumb things sometimes. But even when they did, and took me along with them, I learned valuable lessons, sometimes about marketing and sometimes about people.
Along the way I had a lot of fun. Advertising, as they say, is a people business. The people that are successful in advertising have to genuinely like other people, and a sense of humor is a necessity if you're not going to get an ulcer or eventually be taken to the funny farm. But there's pressure, too. In advertising, you rarely do the same thing the same way twice. There's very little that's routine, and you constantly have to keep your wits about you, and watch your flanks and back. As someone once said, "In advertising, a friend is someone who'll stab you in the front." Advertising is war. But, as Napoleon said, "You have to be careful about war, or you may grow to love it."
This book is about the fun I had, the people I met, the companies I worked for, and the lessons about marketing-and life-that I learned.