I was planning on making a dealer call on Euphoria Chevrolet in Skiatook, OK, to see if the corn really did grow as high as they said it did, when I got the memo!! It was time for the annual Field Meeting of all the Regional Account Managers. This was exciting on several levels:
- I was going to be able to see my folks
- I was going to be able to see the new 1973 Chevrolet ads
- I was going to be able to fly to Detroit First Class! Back then they let us fly First Class if the flight was longer than three hours. KC to Detroit was 2 hours and 45 minutes, but I included the time it took to drive to the airport.
- I was going to be able to finally meet all the field guys face to face.
- I was going to be able to get out of driving to Skiatook, OK.
We were all being put up at the beautiful Hotel St. Regis, right across from the GM Building. This was New Center swank at it’s poshest. The rooms even had these things called mini-bars. The food was good, and they had a cozy cocktail lounge. The decor was tres French. One of the restaurant’s most delicious entrees was their “Chicken Poulet.” Apparently, the chef didn’t think that the GM clientele would realize that the entree translated to “Chicken Chicken.” But remember, this is the same city that gave us “Pizza Pizza!”
Kindly Roy Webb was in charge of the 4th Floor Conference Room. This was the room where the new ads were presented to clients. Where the media budgets were approved (this year topping an obscene $1.1 million!). The room where changes in management were announced and dignitaries were received. This is where we would have our Field Meeting. In addition to running the 16mm AND 32mm projectors, Roy had recently been trained in the operation of the new-fangled videotape machine. He also served as the concierge for the room. Pop (yes, pop), coffee, and tea were on tables at the back of the room. At each place at our table we found: a sharpened pencil, a pad of paper, a pack of Doublemint gum, a pack of cigarettes, a book of matches, and an ashtray. All neatly arranged. It didn’t get much better than this. Let the games begin.
Before they did, I must inject some retrospective. It is part of the human condition to unconsciously assimilate at least some of your surrounding environment. Americans living in London for a period of time will begin saying “shedule” when the word is “schedule.” A waiting line becomes a queue. Easterners in Texas start wearing cowboy hats In LA, flip-flops and shorts. So it was in Kansas City. In the evening, people would “walk the Plaza,” dressed in fine style. The current style made us all look like characters from “Mary Poppins.” Very chic. Just not in Detroit. The morning of the first day of meetings, I showed up in my Kansas City finest; dark blue crushed velour suit, red and blue tattersall shirt, and a bright red butterfly bow tie. To top of the look, I was wearing my new prescription glasses with the oversized aviator frames and adjust-a-tint lenses. Under the bright glare of the conference room lights, it appeared that I was wearing sunglasses. I walked up behind Dick O’Connor, the Account Director and head of the Chevrolet business at Campbell-Ewald, to say “Hello.” I tapped him on the shoulder, “Hi, Dick.” He turned around. “Hi, Tom,” he began, as his smile dissolved into something resembling the face one makes when seeing a dead body for the first time. “Quite a get-up you’re wearing today.” Uh oh!! It wasn’t more than a year or two later that I was walking down a corridor in the GM Building with a friend who worked for GM. He was wearing a blue blazer, white shirt, red tie, and gray slacks. He was stopped by the Chevy National Sales Manager. “Son, you’re out of uniform,” he barked. “At GM we wear either a navy blue suit, a gray suit, or a brown suit.” Uh oh!!!
By the end of our first day, we had been duly proselytized to the true faith of the 1973 products and ads. We knew things the dealers and Chevy Field Staff wouldn’t know for weeks. Knowledge was power! And, love was in the air. Rather, LUV was in the air. The small Toyota and Datsun 1/2 ton pickups were eating up the youth market. In an effort to grab some of these sales, Chevy and Ford resorted to a tried and true automotive marketing trick: If you can’t beat them, sell their products with your logo on them until you can design and build your own. Ford began importing trucks from Mazda and selling them as Ford Couriers. Chevy turned to Isuzu and imported a truck Chevy called the LUV…for Light Utility Vehicle. Red-blooded Amerkins who wouldn’t be caught dead in an import, happily bought up Couriers and Luvs. There were other guests at the St. Regis that evening in addition to the “account men” of the Campbell-Ewald Field force. Isuzu Motor Ltd.had sent a group of executives from Japan to Detroit to finalize the LUV Truck program. Many of them were staying on my floor.
After we’d finished dinner, and drained the cocktail lounge, I went up to my room to go to bed. I watched the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour and soon fell asleep. I thought I was having a dream where a woman was screaming, maybe being attacked. I wasn’t dreaming. A woman was screaming…and a second one was moaning loudly. They were in the room next to me. I could hear male voices. They were laughing. The screaming woman was now moaning loudly, the moaning woman was now laughing. I had to call the police! Suddenly, the active crime scene moved into the hallway, right next to my door. I could her the women running down the hall. Then I heard the men run after them. Were they going to finish them off? Then I heard the women run by my door again. Again, the men followed after. Now they were all…laughing? Making sure that all the lights in my room were turned off, I carefully peered through the peephole in my door. The mystery was solved. The Isuzu executives, now clad only in their tighty-whities, were chasing two “sidewalk hostesses” who had been apparently hired for an evening of “pillowing” and general tomfoolery. Having finished ACT I in the room, they were now playing what seemed to be “Red Rover, Red Rover, send Matsumoto right over.” I guess they were just trying to help with the balance of trade problem. I banged on my door and went back to bed.
Next: Hills That Is. Swimmin’ Pools. Movie Stars