We had made it through the Field Meetings alive. On my way through the 4th Floor Lobby, I stopped to admire the 4′ x 6′ display that had graced the lobby during the meetings. It was a large map of the United States. Across the top ran a banner “Our Men In The Field!” Glued over each Campbell Ewald city containing a field office was a 6″ x 8″ photo of the field guy who was there. Sure enough, smiling from the center of the United States, plastered on Kansas City, was my company mug shot. Oh, I thought, if only the kids from Emerson Jr. High could see me now. This would partially make up for the time I stood up in 8th grade science class with my fly wide open. Who’s laughing now, huh?
When I returned to Kansas City, for three weeks I was the Oracle of Delphi for the Chevrolet people in the Region. “What does the new Monte Carlo look like?” “What Regional markets are on the spot market media buys?” “Is it true that GM might come out with a vehicle powered by a Wankel engine?” “Did you get to touch John DeLorean?” My Midwestern acculturation had begun. Life was good. The people were very friendly. Johhny Carson came on at 10:30. The town was beautiful. The food was incredible. One of my favorite haunts was The Savoy Grill at 9th and Central. Opened in 1903, it served incredible steaks (of course), and fantastic seafood (go figure). They also served Tournedos Rossini. If you haven’t had them, try to find a restaurant that does. They are exquisite! And there’s no truth to the rumor that Tournedos Rossini is French for Myocardial Infarction. What’s unhealthy about a beef filet sautéed in butter, on a large crouton, and topped with a hot slice of butter sautéed foie gras? Sprinkle on some black truffle and a Madeira demi-glace and you’re good to go. Viola!
By the spring of 1973, I had been so inculcated with things Midwestern that I was now pronouncing the state properly…Mizzourah. I even bought a light blue seersucker suit. The only blip in my idyllic life was a decision to drive back to Michigan to see family. It’s a twelve-hour drive. Four to get to St. Louis, four to get to Kokomo, and four on up into Michigan. Leave at 8:00 AM, arrive in Michigan at 9:00 PM, allowing for the time zone change. For my recent birthday, my wife had purchased for me some Jockey cotton mesh underwear. She told me it’s the brand Mark Spitz wears. I all knew was that it made me look like Harry Reems getting ready for an audition. My big mistake was deciding to wear it for the drive to Michigan, thinking that it would be “cooler.” Somewhere between St. Louis and Indianapolis I became aware of a searing pain extending from the middle of the back of my thighs up to the small of my back. Sciatica? Probably not. Couldn’t be fatigue. The bucket seats in my car held you tightly like you were sitting in the palm of a giant. As we got out of the car in Michigan, I hobbled up to meet the outstretched arms of family waiting to greet their successful son. I explained my agony as a possible pulled muscle. I sought refuge in the nearest bathroom. It now felt as though ten thousand needles had been placed into my backside. As I dropped my pants, and turned to inspect the area, I was horrified!! Note to self: Don’t wear cotton mesh briefs if you’re going to sit on your rear for twelve hours. I had to take them off. It proved to be a tricky task, as the mesh had become one with my porcine behind. It looked like a rolled rump roast. Unfortunately, much of the mesh had burrowed into my skin. Taking off my briefs was very much like pulling the mesh off of a cooked rolled roast. There was a distinct “popping” noise as each square of the mesh broke free. I slept on my stomach that night. The return to Kansas City was uneventful. I drove back sitting on a pillow.
People in the Midwest kept buying Chevys, and all was right with the heavens. The Region even got Ford to take their “This Is Ford Country” outdoor campaign down, as Chevy was outselling them. When not out in the field, making sure that the world had a better way to see the USA, field guys were on the phone…with each other. If only one or two guys had heard a rumor about things happening in Detroit, it probably was a false alarm. Three or four guys, the rumor deserved to be checked out. A simple majority of the guys meant that a memo confirming it would probably arrive in the overnight pouch. Thus it was that I found out that I was being transferred. To where I did not know. The usual tour of duty had you in the field for two to three years, then back in Detroit. The rumor was that “someone” was being transferred. But there were no openings in Detroit at the time. Did that mean someone was being fired and that poor soul didn’t have a clue. Then the rumor mill picked up on the fact that Dick Byrne was retiring after 17 years as the LA field guy. Maybe someone was going there. Some new guy? One of us? Within days I discovered that I was one of two names being floated for LA. Apparently, the other name said “No” as my name was the only one being mentioned. My comrades asked if I had heard anything about it. I said, “Hey, I get all my news from you guys.” Two days later my boss called. “Tom, I’ve got some exciting news for you.” “I know,” I said, “I’m being transferred to LA.” He was incredulous. “How did you know?” I told him, “It was in The Hollywood Reporter.” I learned the talent of messing with people’s minds.
The more I discovered about the position, the more attractive it became. Nice salary bump. Only two zones to call on; LA and San Diego. Larger staff. I flew to LA to check it out. The LA office housed all of our network clearance people, an account executive who worked on Rockwell, some production people, a guy who was in charge of the “Hollywood” fleet of Chevrolets (cars for use in TV production), and the West Coast head of Network Programming. The programming guy was senior to me (a VP!) so I was officially the number two guy here. No big deal. I still had my private secretary, my corner office, and my free car. My office was in the southwest corner of the First Federal of Hollywood building at the corner of Hollywood and Highland. It was torn down to build the Kodak Center. On clear days I had a view of the Pacific Ocean and the LA basin all the way to Palo Verdes. On most days I had a clear view of brown air. In the lobby of the office there were travel posters for UTA Airlines and the Tahitian Tourist Bureau. I asked if these were Campbell-Ewald clients. “They used to be,” I was told. I was then told a story that would, years later, teach me a lot about how ad agencies, and executive management, could make a lot of money in the ad biz. It seems that Campbell-Ewald, as many agencies did, wanted a larger presence in Southern California. Building the business took too long. It was easier to buy an existing LA agency. So they did. They bought a vibrant little LA agency called Dailey, for $2 million. By the early 70’s, Campbell-Ewald had decided they couldn’t make a go of it as a full-service West Coast agency and sold it back to Pete Dailey for less than $200,000. Interpublic had acquired Campbell-Ewald in 1972. Twelve years later, Interpublic bought Dailey and Associates for $22.3 million. The new California Gold Rush was on!! It was time to say goodbye to Kansas City. We were heading to LA!
Next: “Have You Met Any Movie Stars?”