I Dodge A Big Bullet

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Crown Prince

All of the Chevy Account Men settled in to help keep Chevrolet #1. The Chevette was setting sales records, Chevy trucks were outselling the anti-Christ Ford trucks. Peace and love and harmony swept over all of us. Until late in 1975. A Chevrolet Merchandising account supervisor lost his mind and quit to move to LA and work at some place called Needham Harper & Sears (sic) on the Honda account. It was actually Steers, but nobody in Detroit knew that. Then, several key creatives bolted to LA to work at Clinton E. Frank on Toyota. They were dead to us.  What a waste of a career…to leave the bosom of Campbell-Ewald to go try and sell cars that were ruining America. The agency decided that they needed to stop the hemorrhaging of talent. One day we learned that a bright young Account Man on Chevy Truck was leaving to go to BBD&O and be the #2 guy on the Dodge account. We were all very happy for him because we knew that he was getting a boatload of money, a huge title, AND a free car to move over to Dodge. His office was immediately emptied…when you go to a competitor, you have to leave right away lest the client think you are going to steal state secrets. Possible replacements for him were being interviewed. Several days later, in a moment of way too much candor while we were on our way to the airport, the Chevy Truck Management Supervisor gave me what he thought was wonderful news. “Tom, the negotiations lasted past midnight last night, but we’ve talked him into staying with Campbell-Ewald.” Hmmm. This young Account Man was giving up a boatload of money, huge responsibilities, AND a free car to stay in his old job? The memo came out the next day.  It announced his promotion to VP-Account Supervisor on Chevy Truck.  The current VP-AS was being “reassigned.” The Account Men who had been leap-frogged were more than a little upset. What was going on? We found out about two weeks later. In a phenomenal case of bad timing, Advertising Age ran an article titled, “When Tom Adams Retires, He’ll Be Replaced By Tom Adams.” The article explained that the agency loved smooth executive transitions. The new Campbell-Ewald HR Director was quoted, “We have what we like Resumeto think of as the ‘Crown Prince’ program working here.  We’ve already identified the young man who will replace our chairman, Tom Adams, when he retires. We almost lost him to another agency recently, but we made sure he stayed with us.” Great!!! Every non-royal Account Man dusted off his resume…at home, since none of us knew how to type. After the article ran, executive recruiters witnessed Account Men running like grunion. I was somewhat tentative. We’d only been in our house for a little over a year. We knew that housing in LA was very expensive. I engaged my passive sonar, I didn’t want management to hear me actively pinging. In the Spring of 1976, I received a call from a gentleman from Parker Advertising in Palos Verdes, California. He was the Senior VP-Management Supervisor on the Datsun account. “Tom, your name was given to me by a friend.  I understand that you used to work on the Chevy California Marketing Project, and that you now handle Small Cars nationally for Chevy.” The mating dance had begun.  I did the pro-forma “I’m not looking to move, but wouldn’t mind talking” lie. He was in Detroit interviewing people. “How about we getBig Boy together for breakfast tomorrow?” he asked. He was staying in Birmingham, so I mentioned an Elias Brothers Big Boy that was roughly halfway between us. Known as Bob’s Big Boy in the West, the three Elias Brothers knew a good thing when they saw it and became the first official franchisee in 1952. Breakfast went very well. I told him about the media friends I had made in LA, about how I knew that housing was expensive, and about where I thought the small car segment was going. We adjourned with him saying, “We’ll be in touch.” Chevette sales continued to grow as more and more people were being driven happy. AlbumCovers-Chicago-ChicagoIX-ChicagoGreatestHits(1975)The creative department had been using a photographer named Reid Miles to shoot a lot of the Chevette magazine work. He had become famous by designing LP album covers.  Perhaps his most famous was the cover done for the group Chicago. Reid shot “idealized reality.” A little like photography’s answer to Norman Rockwell. There was a home-spun feel to his work. 1977-chevy-chevette (1)It was very present in the work he did for Chevette. If people were going to be driven happy, we wanted the people in the ads to look as though they had been delivered to this happy place. Reid often used an ensemble group of actors who had a “hometown” look to them. The Chevette print work exuded happy people. Chevy ChevetteThe decision was made to carry over the “Reid Miles” look into the TV commercials. We came up with a really big idea. What if everyone drove a Chevy Chevette? Everyone would be happy! There would be Chevette police cars, fire engines, convertibles,SanDimas-Downtown-467x348 delivery vehicles, and ambulances. We chose the small town of San Dimas, CA., to be the location for our dystopian view of America. Located about 25 miles east of LA, the town had a “small town America” look to it. The city would gain more fame a few years later as the location for Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Four days before I was set to leave for the shoot, two things happened. BBD&O came back to the “Crown Prince” and threw even more money at him. He accepted and was barely able to safely exit the GM Building as shotgun blasts tore the molding off of the elevator doors as he stepped inside.  The second thing was a call from Parker Advertising. They liked me and wanted to fly me out to “meet the team.” I told them that if they could wait four days, I could save them the airfare as I was coming out anyway. Because I had learned that Account Men were not supposed to touch or say anything, I knew I could slip away from the set for a few hours. Telling everyone that I was going to visit some old friends, I sped to my clandestine rendezvous for lunch. The meeting went better than I could hope. As lunch was winding down, I excused myself to go to the restroom. When I returned to the table, a phone had been placed there.  Both Parker guys had big smiles. “Tom. we candlestickphone2want you to come work on the Datsun Account at Parker. You’ll handle the cars. We have another fellow named Bill Hagelstein handling trucks and the Z car. Here’s a boatload of money and you get a FREE CAR! We have this phone here so you can call Detroit and quit on the spot. We need you out here for a big meeting in four days.” I accepted, but told them that, since I’d been with Campbell-Ewald for almost six years, the decent thing to do would be to resign in person. I would still be able to make the meeting as I would most likely be hurled out of a window when they found out I would be working on Datsun. They agreed, and asked if I had time to go to the office and meet everyone. The offices were gorgeous.  I met “the team.” We then went down to meet John Parker, the agency founder.  His office was dark. the Management Supervisor asked where he was.  “Oh, he got called over to Datsun for a meeting. he should be back soon.” Instead of waiting, they asked me to come back first thing the next morning to fill out my medical paperwork and order my free car!! That evening, at the hotel, I called my wife, my parents, my close friends in Detroit and in LA, to give them the good news. My wife was going to call the realtor and get the “For Sale” sign up ASAP. I got a call from the woman who did the Datsun budgets at Parker.  She was also a real estate agent and offered to set up some home visits the next day.  She told me how happy everyone was that I had decided to join Parker. Wonderful!! I pulled into the Parker parking lot the next morning and ran into the Account Supervisor on my way into the building.  I didn’t notice the puzzled look on his face. Dodging BulletAs we got on the elevator, he said, “Uhhh, Tom, did you get a phone call last night?” I told him that I had. “Well, what do you think?” I told him that the budget manager had called and we were going to look at houses today. “Uhhhh, Tom, we lost the Datsun account yesterday afternoon.  That’s where John Parker was…getting fired. In fact, there’s no job, we’ve all been fired.” Well, golly! I’m sure glad I didn’t quit over the phone yesterday. I had dodged a huge bullet. With trembling hands and a convulsing stomach, I drove back out to San Dimas just in time for the big finale. It was a huge parade scene that was going to be done in one shot. Marching bands, all of the customized Chevettes, beauty queens, local officials, and ParadeCub Scouts would, on cue, turn the corner and march down the street toward the camera. We had talked San Dimas High School into letting the students off for the afternoon to cheer the parade. They each received $1 to give us the rights to their likeness. Reid was at the top of a huge cherry picker with the cameraman. He barked directions through a powerful megaphone that could be heard throughout the downtown area. “Action!” The marching band started playing the jingle as they came into view.  There was the Chevette fire truck with a terrified Dalmatian on the roof. Sirens blaring, lights flashing, beauty queens waving, city officials in their Chevette limos giving the “thumbs up to the crowd. A Norman Rockwell painting come to life. The parade passed underneath the camera and began to move away, when Reid shrieked, “Cut!!” One of the students had taped his dollar to his forehead and was in the shot. The take was ruined. With the megaphone at full throttle he started,”You %$#&*% idiot kid. I’m coming down there to #$^% you in your @$#. As a matter of fact, this whole &*^$$ town can go and ^#$%& itself. What did you all do, marry your cousins? This is total &%$#@*!!!” I knew that, as an Account Man, I wasn’t supposed to touch anything on a shoot. I did notice the San Dimas police running down the street toward us. I nodded at the agency producer.  He would go up on the cherry picker and subdue Reid.

Good Lord, I love this business.

Next:  Onion Soup

What Do You Mean We Printed The Wrong MPG Numbers?

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Beginning with the oil crisis of 1972-1973, America woke up to the fact that their cars needed better gas mileage. Unfortunately, imported cars (mainly Japanese) offered better gas mileage than domestic cars. One of the quickest ways to get better gas mileage was to make the cars smaller.  This made them lighter.  The engine had to carry less weight, and, viola’, the mileage was better.  Domestic car companies began churning out small cars and trumpeting their gas mileage. There was one small problem.  The manufacturers were putting out their own mileage figures. Ford offered California buyers a specially equipped vehicle they called the Pinto MPG, inferring high gas mileage. They also did a commercial featuring a Ford LTD driving from Phoenix to LA and getting great gas mileage numbers. The problem? The drive from Phoenix (1100 ft elevation) to Los Angeles (233 ft elevation) was done by a professional driver who was  basically driving downhill. vintage_rabbit_mpgThe EPA stepped in and ordered that all MPG figures be submitted to them for certification. Testing was done on a dynamometer. There was a strict protocol to be followed as far as the testing went.  It provided mileage numbers that were created in a laboratory. It was a flawedDatsun system, but at least all the manufacturers had to adhere to “testing” results for their MPG figures.  “Your actual mileage may vary.” Two numbers were figured; a “City” number which took stop and go driving into account, and a “Highway” number which almost always was higher. Manufacturers with higher numbers now had a new, powerful unique selling proposition. MPG as a USP!! Some companies even used gasoline efficiency as their theme line.

Chevrolet entered the MPG Madness with the Vega and the Chevette. Built on GM’s T-platform, the Chevette was already a “world car.” GM had been selling it under several different names around the world since 1973. My next assignment at Campbell-Ewald was as Small Car Merchandising Account Executive. We created, for Chevrolet, most of the dealer showroom display and sales materials.  I figured I was put on small cars because i had been “tainted” with California counter-culture thinking, and was better able to understand this silly rush to small cars…a phenomenon that most people in Detroit fervently hoped was a passing fancy.

Now that Chevy was selling small cars, they uncovered something that could derail their efforts to make the imports go away.  Chevy sales personnel Businessmanhad no idea what Vega and Chevette competitors offered, or even how they were priced. They didn’t know the competing models’ trim levels or standard features. There was a lot of confusion out there. It made converting an “import intender” somewhat problematic. We convinced Chevrolet to let us produce the “Chevy Small Car Guide.” This was to become my own personal Summa Contra Vehicula Importa.

The Small Car Guide, as it came to be called, was a monumental undertaking. It had to be comprehensive, meaning that we had to touch on ALL now-competitive imports, not just the Cerberus of Toyota, Datsun, and Honda. It also meant that we had to give details on EACH model from the ALL the competitors. It had to be durable. We wrapped the binder cover in thick Kellsvinyl to protect against coffee spills, spittle, and blood. The binder rings had to open and close easily, as we would be updating it every year. The dividers had to be sturdy to withstand constant section flipping. There was a rumor that these dividers were made of Kevlar, allowing the Small Car Guide to be used as a bullet-proof shield. The poor salesman would now be able to tell the difference between a Triumph Vitesse Sports 6, and a Simca 1204, and how the Chevy Chevette was the right car for the customer. When finished, the Small Car Guide was over two inches thick and weighed in at almost six pounds. The world had not seen such a concentration of knowledge since the Julius Caesar set fire to the Great Library of Alexandria. I still have my copy of the Small Car Guide. It makes a great door stop.

We received some great news late in 1975. The Chevette with the 1.4L engine and 4-speed manual transmission, was certified with a very impressive City figure of 28 MPG, and phenomenal 40 Hwy MPG!!!!!  Shove those numbers up your Blubird all you imports. Finally, good news on the MPG front. We realized that we had to flood the nearly 6,000 Chevrolet dealerships with displays, posters, and banners heralding these game-changing MPG numbers. Meeting with our Chevy client, we settled on a “package.” Each of the 6,000 packages would contain:

  • Six car toppers…three sides,  24 ” tall, with the MPG numbers 18″ tall
  • Four 36″ x 48″ window posters featuring the MPG numbers
  • Fifty 6″ x 12″ vinyl press-on window stickers with the MPG numbers
  • Four 12″ x 18″ stand-up counter cards with the MPG numbers
  • Twenty 3″ in diameter lapel buttons with the MPG numbers
  • Five suggested local newspaper ads with the MPG numbers

Crowd at dealershipThat should do it.  Festive and straight to the point.  We were on a tight production schedule to get the packages to dealers ASAP. They went out on time.  We knew that this kit would “drive showroom traffic.” Soon, thousands of import intenders would be driven into a Chevette buying frenzy by this beautifully designed showroom trim kit. The materials had been up for about a week when I got the call from our legal folks. Those weren’t the right MPG numbers!! “What do  you mean we printed the wrong MPG numbers?”

My first thought was to flee to Canada.  I still had relatives there. The trim kit had cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce and ship. Would GM also want to execute my family as well as me? I had visions of being strapped in, next to a crash test dummy, as our test pointing-fingersvehicle hurtled toward the impact wall at the GM Proving Grounds. Then I remembered the prime directive of all good account men: “Don’t take the blame if you can deflect it elsewhere.” But where? I started with the original numbers.  They had been published in an EPA Guide. Our legal department had a copy of the latest guide which showed the MPG numbers to be lower. The latest guide had come out while the kit was on press. Ahhh, wiggle room! But where did we stand legally? More importantly, where did I now stand in the food chain? This had to be resolved with a “plausible deniability” answer before Chevy got wind of it.  I decided to go to the source.  I called the EPA.  After being bounced around from functionary to functionary like a steel ball bearing in a pachinko game, I finally found the person responsible for “Automotive Advertising Certification Compliance.” I pled my case.  Help me Obi-wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope. There was a chuckle on the other end of the line.  “You ad guys sure get worked up over these numbers,” he said. “The numbers you used were what we call ‘interim’ numbers. We use those until the final ones come out.”  “But what’s a young account man to do when we have deadlines to meet?” I asked. “Oh, you’re OK,” he said. “We can’t expect commerce to halt while we finish ourepa_logo testing. The interim numbers are legit because that’s all you had to go on at the time. You’re OK.” After a few moments my breath came back to me. “Can you send me a letter on EPA stationary explaining that, just to be on the safe side?” He did.  I showed it to our legal department.  We all agreed that nobody else needed to be notified about our kit with the higher numbers…especially not Chevrolet.

Next: I Am Driven Happy

Behind The Green Curtain

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the-great-and-powerful-oz-revealed-4 pay no attention to that man behind the curtain

Nothing takes the chill of a cold Memphis night out of your bones quicker than a glass or two of sour mash bourbon. I found a large booth in the hotel bar and started my de-icing process. Moose Krause and Steve Niehaus soon joined me. We discussed the game. I also informed them that as a staunch MSU Spartan, I shouldn’t be seen in public fraternizing with any Fighting Irish, let alone their Athletic Director and All-American Defenseman. But as a goodwill gesture, drinks would be on me. Well, on Chevrolet. Screen Shot 2013-09-12 at 12.10.16 PMMoose had driven from South Bend to Cincinnati to pick Steve up at the Niehaus home, and then drove the two of them to Memphis. This was a trip of over 700 miles, and it took almost twelve hours to drive! Moose explained that he drove down to Cincinnati on 12/21, spent the night in a motel, then picked Steve up for the long drive to Memphis. I asked him why drive when we would have flown both of them. His response was, “I wanted to stop in and say ‘Hi’ to the Niehaus family. They’re really wonderful people.”

A few minutes later, we were joined by Miss America. Except now, she was Tawny Godin from Portland, Maine. “Where is Frau Blücher this evening?” I asked. Tawny said, “She went to bed. I’m free and clear for a while, but can’t stay out too late as we have adjoining rooms and she can tell when I get in.” The three guys in the booth then began to pepper her with Miss America questions that she’d probably been asked thousands of times before. I decided to change the subject. “Tawny, what do you think of this new comedy show on NBC called jimlampleySaturday Night Live?  Do you think it has a chance?” Before she had a chance to answer,we were joined by Jim Lampley.  Jim had been hired by ABC the previous year to become one of the first “sideline reporters.” ABC wanted to attract a younger demographic for the NCAA games.  They felt that having a young, attractive person giving quick reports from the sideline would perk things up a bit.  Jim’s youth and director Andy Sidaris’ “honey shots” of cheerleaders and women in the stands, had turned the football games into a ratings powerhouse. Little did I know at the time that 40% of the people sitting at the table with me that night would go on to become news anchors for TV stations in LA.  Tawny, as Tawny Little, for KABC and others, and Jim, on KCBS. He is now doing boxing on HBO. Moose Krause, who played football at Notre Dame under Knute Rockne, would be elected to the College Basketball Hall of Fame. Steve Niehaus was a consensus first string All-American pick in 1975. He would be the first person ever drafted by the Seattle Seahawks a few weeks later. Ironically, they chose him over Chuck Muncie. He was the 1976 NFL Rookie Defenseman of the Year, and holds the Seahawks record for most sacks in a single season.

Me? I was still trying to figure out how to get my free car back.

As the evening wore on, our ranks began to thin. Moose Krause was the first to fold. As he got up, he asked if he could speak to me for a moment. The two of us moved to a nearby empty booth. “Tom,” he said, ‘this is rather embarrassing. As you know, Steve and I drove down here. On the night of 12/21, I stayed in a motel outside of Cincinnati before picking Steve up at his parent’s house the next day.” Where was he going with this, I thought? Moose reached inside his suit coat pocket, pulled out a crumpled piece of paper, and handed it to me. “It’s the motel bill for the night I stayed in Cincinnati, he said. “Do you think I could get reimbursed for this? I paid for it out of my own pocket.” The bill was from a Motel 6 for $38.00. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that we’d spent $7800 flying the Cal Berkeley guys in.  “Of course we’ll reimburse you,” I said. Just send me an invoice Motel 6and I’ll be sure that it’s billed through on the job.” His eyes fell.  “How long do you thing that will take?” he asked. I knew where this was going. “Here, Moose, let me pay you now for it, and I’ll turn it in with my expenses.” I handed him $40. He bade me goodnight and told me to look him up on my next trip to Notre Dame.

Shortly after I got back to our booth, Miss America said that she’d better get back to her room before the clock struck twelve. We all stood and waved her off. A few minutes later, Jim Lampley excused himself. Steve Niehaus and I ordered more distilled corn by-product. Steve kept looking around furtively. “Did Coach Krause really go back to his room?” I assured him that he had. “Whew!” Steve said, as he pulled a rumpled pack of Winstons out of his hip pocket. “I thought he’d never leave.” The mangled cigarette was quickly lit, half of it disappearing as Steve inhaled. “You smoke?” I asked. “Like a chimney,” Steve said. “I was worried that my hands shaking would give it away. Coach Krause would kill me if he knew I smoked.” Interesting comment from a man whose Notre Dame playing days were over, and who was about to become a millionaire in the NFL. We talked for a while about our backgrounds and hobbies.  John BoehnerHe mentioned that he’d attended Archbishop Moeller High School in Cincinnati. Moeller was a perennial football powerhouse, providing the NFL with a lot of players. One of their notable alums who didn’t go into the NFL is former football center John Boehner. Moeller was also a fertile recruiting field for…Notre Dame! A small light began to flicker on in my head. I asked Steve how he got the news about his Chevy scholarship award. He told me that Moose Krause called him with the news. “Did he tell you that we were willing to fly you to Memphis?” I asked.  Steve said that he had, but Moose told him that he espnhs_st_ignatius_football_576x324was “going to be in Cincinnati anyway” and that it would be easy for them to drive to Memphis together. That crafty old codger! He was going to Cincinnati anyway to recruit talent for Notre Dame, and I had helped him by subsidizing his trip!!  It’s as though I had made a direct contribution to their football fund. It has taken me almost 38 years to deal with this guilt and publicly admit it for the first time today.

Next: “What Do You Mean We Printed The Wrong MPG Numbers?”

Miss America Shows Me Her Undies

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1976_TawnyGodin-x365

My reign as “Sports Promotions Guy” was soon to end. I was being given responsibility for “Dealer Materials.” These were all the showroom trim deally bobbers and car toppers that made every dealership that much more festive. My defining moment as the sports promotions guy was going to be the Liberty Bowl between USC and Texas A&M, in Memphis, on December 22, 1975. Before the explosion of bowls that now allow any college team with a winning season to appear in a lucrative post-season game, the Liberty Bowl was quite a deal. America’s Bi-centennial was coming up, and the Liberty Bowl was going to beLiberty75b college football’s salute to it. America’s car, Chevrolet, was going to be all over it. In addition to being the major TV sponsor, Chevrolet was going to present checks to the Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year in a live ceremony on the field at halftime. Tawny Godin, the newly crowned Miss America for 1976, was going to make a special halftime appearance while the combined USC and Texas A&M marching bands played patriotic songs. The game was held at Memphis Memorial Stadium, a record crowd of 52,129 was expected. Because the game was being played three days before Christmas, there were no other bowl games competing for TV viewers.

The producers of ABC Sports had finally chosen the scholarship winners. I received the call from New York.  The Offensive Player of the Year was Chuck Muncie from Cal Berkeley. The Defensive Player of the Year was Steve Niehaus from Notre Dame. I had the privilege of Cal Bearcontacting their Athletic Directors to give them the good news. I called the legendary Edward Walter “Moose” Krause, the Athletic Director of Notre Dame. He served as AD there for thirty-two years. He was ecstatic upon hearing the news.  I told him that Chevy was going to fly them to Memphis and put them up at the headquarters hotel. He was going to call Steve with the news and get back to me about travel. I called Dave Maggard, the AD at Cal Berkeley. He too was quite excited about the honor. I told him that we would fly them out to Memphis the morning of 12/22, and fly them back on 12/23. Dave’s excitement waned. “Tom, Chuck is in the middle of exams.  He has a test on the morning of ND12/22, and one on the morning of 12/23.  He won’t be able to make it.” If there was one thing I had learned from working on the Chevy account, it was the operational standing order to “Make It Happen!” This was a time to make it happen. After doing a CYA memo to my boss, I made a few phone calls. I called Dave Maggard back.  “Dave,” I said, “a chartered Gulfstream jet is going to pick you both up at the local airport right after Chuck’s exam. It will fly you to Memphis where a limo will drive you two to the game in time for the presentation. Immediately after the award ceremony, the limo will take you back to the jet, which will get you into Berkeley by midnight, your time.” “That’s fantastic, we’ll be there,” he said.  Whew! It’s amazing what you can do with $7800 of someone else’s money. 

I arrived in Memphis the morning of 12/21.  We had a pre-pro meeting at the hotel and then went to the stadium for the award ceremony walk-through. Liberty Bowl officials took us up to the press box memphis-fans-fill-liberty-bowl-memorial-stadium-joe-murphyarea that had been converted into an executive skybox for the game. We all received our Liberty Bowl credentials. I had five different badges that would hang around my neck. They allowed me to go anywhere in the stadium. I made sure that at least one of them allowed me into the skybox suite. Plans were finalized for the scholarship award winners. Moose Krause called me and said that he would drive down from South Bend, pick up Steve Niehaus in Cincinnati, and then drive to Memphis. I told him that Chevy would fly him, but he was determined to make the twelve-hour drive.

TexasAggieCorps3The big day had arrived. The temperature at kick-off was expected to be 40 degrees. The game went on the air at 8:00 PM, the kick-off was scheduled for 8:15. Dave Maggard and Chuck Muncie were on their way to the stadium. The Texas A&M cadets marched in. The song_girls_02Southern Cal cheerleaders (aka Song Girls) posed for the cameras. Excitement ran high in the packed stadium. Even Reveille IV, the Aggie collie mascot, was amped. Not so much by the event, but by the loud noise the cannon she was stationed next to made when it was fired. This was legendary USC coach John McKay’s final game. Fortunately, this was a night game, so I didn’t have to worry about the sun-visor silliness. LET THE GAME BEGIN!!!!

1975 Liberty Bowl

The Aggies, favored by seven, had their cadet hats handed to them in the first half. The half ended with USC ahead 20-0. I had ushered the award winners onto the sideline just prior to the end of the half. As the teams left for the locker rooms, we sprang into action.  Cameras and a podium were wheeled out to the center of the field.  The dignitaries were positioned.  The big, fake checks were propped up behind the speakers.  The award winners gave great speeches.  The Chevy exec gave a great speech. The red light on the camera went out.  It’s a wrap! Dave Maggard and Chuck Muncie raced for their limo back to their jet. Moose Krause and Steve Niehaus looked around, not knowing what was next. It was now about 37 degrees. I was done for the day, and setting my sights on the party skybox.  I invited Moose and Steve to join me.  They were genuinely grateful.  As we left the field, the two schools’ marching bands came out.  Hundreds of local school children appeared on the field waving American flags and red, white, and blue banners.  Miss America was wheeled out on a float, giving the famous “pageant wave.” She was wearing a sleeveless ball gown and her crown.  She had to be freezing. 

I made my way to the press box elevator, flashed my credentials at the guard, and sent Moose and Steve up to the party. I wanted to take one more look to see if Miss America had turned into a pillar of ice yet. When I got back to the elevator, the guard was having a heated discussion with the USC coaching staff.  They had left their credentials in the press box when they went down to the ABC production truck to look at video from the first half. No credential, no admittance. I heard one of the coaches scream one of my favorite phrases, “”Do you know who I am?”  I flashed my credential at the guard on got on the elevator.  I figured that since the Aggies were getting whipped, they could use all the help they could get. I waited until about 8 minutes had passed in the third quarter before I told the one remaining USC press box spotter (who was quite frantic by this time) that his compadres couldn’t come up because they had left their credentials on their chairs.

In the middle of the third quarter, Miss America and her chaperone arrived in the skybox. The game was pretty much over. Texas A&M almost scored, but fumbled the ball away. I saw Miss America standing, somewhat forlornly, by herself watching the game.  I saw my chance to ask my burning question. “Uh, excuse Ms. Godin, I almost froze to death out there, even with my overcoat.  How did you endure the cold?” She gave me a sly smile as she put her drink down and grabbed the hem of her gown, pulling it up to her armpits. “A little trade CHP_CKWM2_BerryPinkHeathersecret,” she said. “Specially made thermal long johns.  They’re also foam padded.  Feel them.”  I was in mid-squeeze when the Miss America chaperone appeared out of nowhere to pull Tawny’s gown back down, and admonish her, “That is NOT permissible behavior.” Miss America rolled her eyes as the chaperone marched away.  “Is she with you 24/7?” I asked. “No,” she said.  “Just when I’m out in public.” “Is having drinks with us at the hotel after the game being out in public?” I asked. “Nope,” she replied.  “We’ll be in the Atrium Bar,” I said.

The final score was USC 20 – Texas A&M 0.  The only Aggie happy that night was Reveille IV, who didn’t have to go nuts when the canon went off.  I extended the bar invitation to Moose Krause and Steve Niehaus. They gratefully accepted.

Next: Behind The Green Curtain

I Am Shown To My New Office

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Young Turk

I knew that I had to first see John Bluth, VP-Account Supervisor. John would be my boss. The Campbell Ewald Chevy Merchandising group was located in a hallway just to the right of the elevators. On either side of the hallway were doors framing translucent glass that led to the secretarial areas. Off of this area were the doors leading to the individual offices. I tried my luck with the door that said John Bluth. John was a great guy. If something hit the fan, he would work with you to fix it. John outlined my duties.  I was to be the Chevrolet Sports Marketing Account Executive. Chevy was neck deep with sponsorships of NCAA, Major League Baseball, the AAU, the Soap Box Derby, and the Chevrolet Super Sports (SS) Team which was comprised of sports celebrity endorsors. Not too shabby! John took me across the hall to meet his boss, Chuck McLaughlin, Sr. VP-Management Supervisor. If Ricardo Montalban and a leprechaun were to have a child, it would have been Chuck.  Stylish, genteel, sophisticated, with a quick wit, devilish sense of humor, and a twinkle in his eye. After meeting with Chuck, I was shown to my office. Each office had at least one window, and a Frigidaire window-mounted air conditioner.  From the air, the old GM building looked like conjoined Hs, thedet01 verticals connected by a long horizontal member. My windows looked across to the next wing, and down to the GM waste removal area. I’m quite sure that my window air conditioner was powered by a Pratt and Whitney 2500HP engine, the same engine that powered  the WWII P-47 Thunderbolt. If I wanted to talk on the phone, or have a meeting in my office, the a/c had to be shut off.

On my desk I had a phone and a Dictaphone recording device. I was told that it was faster to just write my memos out in longhand and give them to my secretary. There was a wooden coat rack in the corner, and two chairs in front of my desk. The filing cabinets behind me were empty…except for an unused condom that was caught in one of the file rollers.  Probably left over from the Christmas party of 1971.  I asked for some Lysol and paper towels to clean my desktop. John came in and dropped about sixty pounds of files on my desk. “Familiarize yourself with these. It will give  you a good idea of what you will be doing. And, call the travel office and have them book you a ticket for LA. You’re going there on Thursday.” Whahhhh??  As the sports merchandising guy, i would be attending each week’s NCAA UCLAFootball game on ABC. UCLA was playing Ohio State in LA on Saturday.  This was the drill: Thursday fly to location city, ABC booked my room; Friday attend pre-production meeting with ABC  technical people, handle any ticket requests local Zone people had; Saturday go to the game (with my all-access ABC credential) and make sure Chevy display near end zone was visible, make sure Chevy guy presenting Scholarship Award check knew how to pronounce the players’ names, then attend post game party; Saturday go home.

I was fortunate that my first game was a night game. Most games were played on Saturday afternoon. This triggered the Chevrolet Sun-visor Program. In concept, it was very clever. Produce cardboard sun-visors in the home team’s school colors, with a very large Chevy bowtie logo on the top of the visor, and the team’s football schedule on the underside of the visor.  They would be distributed free at the gate, with the expectation that the ABC cameras would broadcast a sea of Chevy logos as they panned the packed stadium. On Monday of the week of the game, ABC would call and tell me who the teams for Saturday would be…this was before the era of “regional” games. I would whip out my College Sports Information Director’s Handbook and find out the school’s colors, the capacity of the stadium, their current season’s football schedule, and the name of their Sports Information Director. I would call the SID and tell him that Chevy was donating $500 to their booster club if they would distribute the visors at the game. By noon, I had contacted the printer with the quantity (basically, the capacity divided by two because half of the stadium was in the shade), the school colors, the schedule, and a shipping address and a local contact to confirm delivery.  The completed visors were toTexas arrive by Thursday afternoon.  My first “visor game” was Texas – Oklahoma. The visors had arrived, Jim Bob Gullickson of the Hook-Em Horns Boosters called to confirm.  We were ready to rock and roll. I dutifully sent out a memo telling everyone to watch the game. Gameday arrived. The cameras panned the vast stadium crowd. Nobody was wearing a visor!!!!!

What had gone wrong?  They got there in time.  Jim Bob seemed to be a man of his word. Then the the glaring flaw in the program hit me. Most college teams make the visiting fans sit in the sun, the home team season ticket holders get to sit in the shade and don’t need a sun-visor.  No Oklahoma fan would be caught dead wearing Texas colors. Students don’t wear visors, they wear horns, or beaver hats, or gator heads, or Spartan helmets. I offered a solution that I knew would keep the multi-billion dollar General Motors Corporation solvent. Reversible sun visors! We lost the schedule, and printed the school colors of both schools, one per side. The next week at the Alabama – LSU game, the Chevy bowtie ruled the day.

For a while we had convinced ABC to mount their sideline cameras in the beds of Chevy Luv trucks. As the play on the field moved back and forth, you could see cameramen clutching their cameras as the trucks lumbered up and down the field. The clarity and stability of the shot relied on the acceleration and braking skills of the driver.

mrcoffeeI was settling into the routine of an ad guy…well, at least a sports promotions guy. A quick breakfast, the long commute down Woodward, lunch with the other account men in the GM cafeteria, the long commute up Woodward, dinner and bed. To break up the day, I decided to try a new beverage that had just been invented: coffee. There was no coffee room or break room.  Someone in our group brought in a nifty thing called a Mr. Coffee. The secretaries were in charge of the “Coffee Club.” For $5 a week, you had unlimited access to the coffee. Not being an addict yet, I opted for the 25 cents per cup plan. The NCAA football season was winding down. Visors were printed, car displays were arranged, cue cards were made, pre-production meetings  were attended. We were preparing ourselves for the ultimate football game, the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. Chevy’s Offensive and Defensive Players of the year would each receive $10,000 scholarship checks for their schools during the halftime ceremonies. The teams were set: USC vs Texas A&M. I was told that I would go to the game and manage the Chevy halftime festivities.  I told all my friends and family to tune in.  It would be monumental.

75liberty-lg

Next: Miss America Shows Me Her Undies

They Take My Free Car!!!

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Corvette 3 copy

The bomb had been dropped. I was being pulled back to Detroit. It was certainly the right thing to do as a career move. I was now “mainstream.” Close to the beating heart of GM. But, as a twenty-eight year old advertising naif, it was still hard to give up:

  • Pretty much being your own boss
  • Having a very generous expense account
  • Being the “go to” person for all of the local media reps
  • Travelling to exotic locations in your region
  • Working with a large number of Chevy clients
  • Not having to pay to go to Dodgers, Angels, or Rams games
  • Having a free car

When I returned from the Field Meeting, Bob Albright and I started “Tom’s Farewell Tour.”  We visited the San Diego and LA Zone offices as well as the key dealers throughout the region. Most of the people we met asked, “Are you crazy?  Why are you leaving Southern California to go back to Detroit and work in the GM Building?” They all laughed when I said, “I had no choice.”  They thought I was kidding.  I wasn’t.  I felt like the condemned KGB prisoner.  Not only is he going to take one in the back of the head, his family is forced to buy the bullets. The packers packed, the movers moved, we were on our way back to Detroit.  As our neighbors tearfully waved goodbye, I announced, “I shall return.” We’d decided Mapthat we’d drive back, figuring that we didn’t want to sit waiting for our furniture to arrive at our new house in Detroit. The new 55 MPH speed limit had been enacted for travel on U.S. Interstates. Being a law-abiding citizen, I told my new boss that I couldn’t drive over 55 MPH. So driving for eight hours would bring us 400+ miles a day closer to the GM Building. It’s 2,281.4 miles from LA to Detroit. The math dictated that I take 5.5 days to make the drive. The irony was not lost on me, I was going to be able to see the U.S.A. in my Chevrolet! I had made reservations for lodging along our way. We would drive to Las Vegas, then a short jump to St. George, Utah,  then to Grand Junction, Colorado, then Kansas City,  MO., on to Indianapolis, then into Detroit. Some stops were more than a day’s drive, but we were also sightseeing. I had everything planned down to the nth degree.  Except for one, teeny, tiny problem.  I would be driving across the country in La Bestia, my Chevy Monza with the 5.7 liter V-8 monster engine that was cooled by a tiny Vega-sized radiator. We left LA on a Monday morning, headed for Las Vegas. By the time we got Victorville, in the Mojave Desert, I noticed that the temperature gauge was going up. Determined to press on regardless through the blistering nothingness of the Mojave, I was only marginally concerned when the needle was firmly planted in the red zone of the temperature gauge. I was moved to somewhat concerned status when I saw steam coming out from under the hood. I arrived at critically concerned when the car stalled and OverheatSignwe coasted on to the shoulder of I-15. When it was safe, I opened the radiator cap and saw a bone-dry radiator. It was 109 in the desert that day, and the temperature in the passenger seat was rising even past that. After thirty minutes or so, a California Highway Patrol car pulled up behind us. After explaining my problem, he looked under the hood and laughed. “Buddy, when you dropped this monster engine into this car, you forgot to put in a radiator that can cool it. I’m surprised you got this far. Where are you headed?” When I told him, he slowly shook his head. He informed me that my car wouldn’t make it through the heat.  I said that I had to be in Detroit in five and a Red-Rock-Canyon-Las-Vegashalf days to become part of the Chevy Account Team. Surprisingly, he was unimpressed. We worked out a plan. He would fill my radiator with water.  I was to top the radiator off every sixty miles. I was only to drive at night to avoid the blistering heat of the day.  I was to drive with the a/c off! Already, my passenger was making plans to take a bus back to LA. We limped into Las Vegas at 10:45 PM. The heat wave in the Western U.S. was expected to last for another four days.

We decided to leave Las Vegas for St. George at 4:00 AM. The temperature had plummeted to 80 degrees.  Cool enough to drive without the a/c. There’s not much to see in the Nevada desert, there’s even less at night. We arrived in St. George in time for breakfast. Not quite ready to go to bed at 9 in the morning, we visited the Brigham Young Winter Home  and the Daughters of Utah Pioneer Museum.  Neither place appreciated my request for a cold beer.

We continued our nocturnal journey through Utah and Colorado.  Sleeping by day, enjoying the beautiful countryside by night. The only hitch came at the Loveland Pass.  This is where I-70 crosses the Continental Divide.  Gerald Ford had decided that he liked to vacation in Vail, about 38 miles west of the pass. In anticipation of the added traffic, I-70 was being widened on a stretch near the Eisenhower Tunnel, which cut through the pass. The elevation is about 12,000 feet. You can fool a tiny radiator into thinking it’s cool outside, but you can’t convince it that there’s air when there is none.  Traffic on I-70 was squeezed into one lane, and backed up for miles. Excavation equipment roared by our open windows. Steam began to wisp out from under the hood. A time and space warp enveloped the interior of my stalwart Chevy Monza. Hallucinations, screaming, flashes of lightning, curses shrieked in anger, talons ripping at flesh, and cries of banshees. We did, however, finally make it to Denver.

It was all downhill from Denver. In a good way, as we were on the downside of the Rockies. Kansas City and Indianapolis flew by.  We were now driving in daylight as we had the good fortune of being able to follow severe thunderstorms all the way to Michigan. We rolled into a Ramada Inn in Southfield, MI. This was just Arrowa few miles from the house we’d purchased in the Beverly Hills area of Royal Oak. I needed some remembrance of California.Our furniture arrived two days later.  We were fortunate.  Only about 20% of our stuff was destroyed. Our schnauzer particularly loved the house as he could easily squeeze under the under the redwood fence in the back yard and run away, I was able to quickly meet a lot of my neighbors by picking up schnauzer dootie in their yards. Monday morning arrived.  I showered, shaved, and put on my best grey flannel suit. I grabbed my empty briefcase and drove down my street to Woodward Avenue…the femoral artery of Detroit. Turn right on Woodward. Turn right on Grand Blvd. Turn right into parking lot behind Fisher Bldg. Go into Fisher Bldg. Take the underground concourse to the GM Bldg. Go to the 4th Floor. I was now in the belly of the beast.

detroit Map

Next:  I Am Shown To My New Office

More Tales From the Darkside

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woman-screaming1

I wasn’t the only one who witnessed the terror of a visit from a high ranking Chevrolet executive. Our Campbell-Ewald guy in Chicago saw his own psycho-drama played out, all because of an innocent, last second decision. When a Regional Manager would visit a Zone Office city, cars and drivers met him at the airport, his luggage whisked away to his hotel and neatly put away in dressers and closets. His schedule was handled down to the nth degree. The angst was ramped up when the National Car or Truck Sales Manager would visit. Bottles of his favorite booze and lots of ice were in the room, as well as shrimp and crab claws on ice. When the General Sales Manger came…well, hooweeeee!  Police barriers were set up, children were taken out of school to line the motorcade where they would dress up like Dinah Shore and sing the “Baseball, Hot dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet” theme. Imagine, if you will, what sphincter tightening and pants dampening fear gripped the Zone when the capo di tutti capi, the General Manger of the Chevrolet Motor Division came to town. It happened on a sunny Saturday in October.  Bob Lund, GM VP and General Manager was flying to Chicago to attend the Northwestern FootballWildcats vs Edna Ferber Writers’ College Flying Scribes football game.  It was being broadcast as the ABC NCAA Game of the Week.  Chevy pretty much owned the broadcasts.  Opening and closing title billboards, lots of spots, and the presentation of the Chevrolet Offensive and Defensive Player of the Game Scholarships. Bob enjoyed being down on the sideline after the game for the televised presentation of the checks. Not since D-Day had America seen this massive mobilization of men, machines, and eggs Benedict. The plan was coordinated down to the most minute detail.

Mr. Lund would be driven from his home in Bloomfield Hills to Willow Run Airport outside of Detroit.  He would board the GM plane for the flight to Chicago’s Midway Airport. There, he would be greeted by the Assistant Zone Manager. Two District Managers were assigned to carry any bags Bob had, and then the four people would drive to The Palmer House Hotel, where police had cordoned off the street and parking was reserved in front of the building. Another District Manager would escort the party to a waiting Grand Ballroom Dinnerelevator where they would be whisked to the 4th Floor Grand Ballroom. He would be greeted by the Zone Manger, the Regional Manager, Chicago-area Chevy dealers, and a photographer from GM PR. An incredible buffet brunch had been laid out. Champagne, juices, eggs Benedict, lox and bagels, breakfast meats, an omelet station, baskets of seasonal fruits, assorted crepes, lobster thermidor, and two full bars filled with premium liquor. To add to what would Mariachi-band-460x300undoubtedly be a festive occasion, the Zone had hired a mariachi band…Los Musicos Ambulantes de La Calle. At 12:15, the motorcade would leave the Palmer House and head to the stadium in Evanston. As a failsafe, each point of travel in Chicago was being covered by a District Manager who was near a pay phone to give any updates to a direct line in the ballroom. The planning was perfect. Nothing, absolutely nothing, could go wrong.

The October Saturday broke sunny in Chicago, and several hundred miles away in Bloomfield Hills. The GM air crew had filed their flight plan into Midway airport. Bob Lund was brushing his teeth, awaiting the arrival of the driver. Everything was on schedule…until the phone rang.  Bob’s wife answered. “Bob, it’s for you,” she said.  “It’s Bill Fleming.” Bill Fleming was an ABC football announcer,  He also lived in Bloomfield Hills, very close to Bob Lund.  They were good friends. Bill Fleming was also a pilot, and owned his own airplane. “Bob,” Fleming said,”are you going to the Northwestern game?” Bob answered that he was. “So am I,” Bill said.  “I’m flying over there out of Pontiac airport.  This was only a few miles from Bloomfield Hills, not the long drive to Willow Run to take the GM corporate plane. “And, I’m flying directly into the airport in Evanston, so we can avoid all that Chicago traffic.”  “Great!” BobDSC_0057 said. I’ll be right over. Bob called Willow Run, telling him he wouldn’t be flying today.  As he was their only flight, they all packed up and went home.  Bob told his driver to take the day off. Bob Lund and Bill Fleming took off from the Pontiac airport, and effectively severed the Achilles tendon of the Chicago Zone Extravaganza.

Meanwhile, back at the Palmer House, the party had started. The steam trays had been fired up, the screwdrivers and bloody marys were flowing, and the Zone Manager was passing out tickets for the game. A suite had been set up in the stadium’s press box for the Chevy brass. Bob Lund was supposed to be landing at 10:30 AM. It was now 10:45 and the District Manger had not called from Midway. No problem, maybe there was bad weather over Muskegon. It was 11:00 when the Assistant Zone Manager called in from the airport.  “He’s still not here”, he said. A look of worry appeared on the Zone Manager’s face. When it was 11:10, the news that the plane wasn’t in yet began to spread through the room. Someone decided to call the GM Air office at Willow Run. With the sunken_cessnacrew long gone, the only person there was a dispatcher who had just arrived.  He checked the paperwork and told the Zone Manager that the plane “probably” left about two hours ago…more than enough time to get to Chicago.  Oh no!!! To already terrified minds, this could mean only one thing: Mr. Lund and the GM Corporate plane had gone down over Lake Michigan! “Alert the FAA.” “Have the Civil Air Patrol look for oil slicks on Lake Michigan.” Because this had happened on his “watch,” the Zone Manager knew that his career was over. A command center was quickly set up in the ballroom.  The GM PR guys said, “Don’t talk to the press until we have more facts.” The two District Managers  would stay at Midway to act as liaison with the FAA. Pockets of quiet crying broke out in the ballroom.   The Chicago Police had to be notified because the officers out in front of the hotel had only been paid until 11:30. A shroud of dismay settled over  the Grand Ballroom. The mariachi band playing Mi Rosa Salvaje Irlandes didn’t lift any spirits. It was now 12:45 and everyone at Chevrolet was trying to resign themselves to the tragedy. Then, the phone rang.  The Zone Manager grabbed it. “Any news?” he said.  “Uh, sir, this is Mike Swenson. I’m the District Manager stationed at the Northwestern stadium. Uh, sir, I just ran into Mr. Lund.  He’s really upset and wants to know where the hell all the Chevy people are.”

“Everybody to their cars!” he yelled.  “He’s not dead, he’s at the stadium.”  There was a mad rush toward the door.  Our Campbell-Ewald guy, who didn’t receive a ticket to the game, asked the Zone Manager, “Sir, what do we do with all the food and liquor?” “Send it back,” the Zone Manager yelled back over his shoulder as everyone raced for the elevators.  Our guy looked at the hotel’s banquet manager who was personally surprising the extravaganza. He slowly shook his head. “You guys own it and this room until 2:00.” With that, he ordered his staff to clear the tables.  “Wait,” our guy said. “If Chevy already paid for it, you can’t touch it until 2:00.” “Oh, you’re going to eat it all?” the manager sniffed. “Yes,” said our guy and a Chevy District Manager who had been left behind. The two of them tried mightily, but by 1:20 they were overstuffed and quite drunk. Then the idea hit them. It would be a shame to waste all this food and booze. The District Manager stayed behind, while our guy went out of the NorthwesternFootball2006hotel onto Monroe St., and down to Michigan Ave., inviting homeless people to go to the 4th Floor Grand Ballroom of The Palmer House. There they would find all the food they could eat. A small stampede was generated.  When the folks got to the Grand Ballroom, the mariachi band struck up a local favorite, Vientecinco O Seis A Cuatro.  A lot of people were able to eat that day. The Zone guys were only an hour late for the game. Everyone laughed about the “crazy mix-up.” And, nobody got fired.

Next: The Bloom Starts To Come Off Of The Rose

 

Power Politics

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Soviet Officials on May Day

When I started my career adventure, I set out under the erroneous assumption that everyone got along, that everyone worked toward mutual goals, a spirit of collegiality drove corporate decisions, and a general feeling of Gemütlichkeit guided every business action. I was disabused of that notion starting in 1974. Sometimes various forms of power were flexed by individuals and groups to serve different agendas.  I present three examples:

#1 MINE IS BIGGER THAN YOURS

In the early 70’s, Chevrolet was bathing itself with sports sponsorships.  College football, NFL football, MLB baseball, and even the Soap Box Derby.  Network TV sponsorships, network radio sponsorships, local TV and radio sponsorships. They even had celebrity endorsement deals with former Olympian Jean-Claude Killy, and an up and coming Buffalo Bills star named O.J. Simpson. Chevy was spending a lot of money on these properties.  The challenge was “Are we maximizing our investment?”  That translates into, “How much can we squeeze out of the buys?” Campbell-Ewald Autry Hotelcame up with the perfect solution.  One that would “maximize the investment” as well as allow everyone to get out of the snow and ice of Detroit in January and play golf in Palm Springs. The “Chevrolet Sports Merchandising Conference” was invented. Chevy was sponsoring the California Angels.  Gene Autry owned the team, as well as Golden West broadcasting, which owned many stations receiving Chevy media dollars. Gene Autry also owned the Gene Autry Hotel in Palm Springs.  “Let’s hold the conference there!” Invitations (summonses?) went out to all of the station reps carrying a Chevy-sponsored team. They were being invited to attend the Sports Merchandising Conference and show what they had been doing to “maximize the buy.” The first conference got ugly.  Some teams and stations had lots of money to “maximize” the buy.  Many times the money was buried in the cost of the media sponsorship. Some stations didn’t. KMOX in St. Louis had the money. For their presentation, they flew out the late, great Jack Buck, the voice of the St. Louis Cardinals. Everyone would play golf in the morning, with the first presentation of the day scheduled for 1 PM.  Jack and the KMOX guys were waiting for us when we entered the room, having just completed our grilled hamburgers and bloody marys.  Once we had all been introduced to him, we took our seats. Jack began by telling us how honored KMOX and the Cardinals were to be associated with Chevrolet. He talked about being #1 in whatever you do.  He mentioned the Chevy logo on the outfield wall, and the in-game freebie promos. He then cued lou-brocka projector which showed Lou Brock breaking the single season stolen base record. “Lou Brock is a champion,” Jack said as we watched the moment, “he knows how to win.  He knows how to……. WAIT!!! Why am I telling you this, let’s have Lou tell you in his own words. Guys, please welcome Lou Brock.” On that cue, Lou walked into the room from behind the screen. He acknowledged our standing ovation.Brock-a-brella He spoke about being a champion, being #1. He then personally signed replica bases for each of us and gave each of us one of his novelty Brock-a-brellas. The KMOX presentation had now gone 25 minutes over its allotted time. Nobody cared. This was how to “maximize the buy.” The bar had been set. The next presenter was the National Sales Manager for WCCO, Minneapolis. He tentatively approached the podium.  He had the look of a man who knew that he was doomed.  “Hi, everybody. Thanks for sponsoring the Twins. We are really, really thankful. He then reached inside his jacket and pulled out a small Twins’ pocket schedule. “Uhh, we printed the Chevy logo on 300,000 pocket schedules. Uhh, we’re really, really grateful to you folks. Hey, what a beautiful hotel you got for us here. Did I say how really, really grateful we are? Well, thanks.”  He crept away from the podium to polite and mercy applause. He was probably on his way to the garden to commit ritual seppuku to atone for his shame. I turned to one of the Campbell-Ewald heavy-breathers who was here from Detroit.  “That poor devil, he didn’t have a chance.” He responded, “Yeah, but you can bet your ass that next season we’ll get a lot more out of WCCO. That’s why we have these conferences.  Nothing pushes you to perform like the fear of being shamed in front of your peers.” Hmmmmmm.

#2 “HEY, WHAT’S YOUR NAME AGAIN?”

I was headed back to Las Vegas to call on the local Chevy dealers and get input for my weekly reports. The calls were pretty uneventful, until I got to the dealership owned by Fletcher Jones. Jones was a successful, multi-franchise dealer.  His son now runs a very successful Mercedes dealership in Newport Beach, CA.  I announced myself at the Chevy dealership reception desk. After a few minutes I was led into a massive office, festooned with sales awards, trophies, and autographed pictures of celebrities. I introduced myself.  He asked me why I was visiting him.  I said it was to provide “input to Detroit.” He then leaned across the desk and stared directly at me.  “When is Chevrolet going to get it through their thick heads that Las Vegas is an important market to them and add us to their Top 25 market list so we can be part of their spot TV buys? Ford is killing us.” I had an answer.  Sort of. I knew that Las Vegas was on the cusp.  There were three markets all vying for the cherished final 25th spot. “Well, Mr. Jones, right now it’s close, Las Vegas is right in there..”  “Humph,” he said, as he swung his chair around toward his credenza, picked up his phone and punched in three digits. He was business-man-fear-nailbiting-300x214speed dialing someone. I could hear someone answer.  “Hey, Fletcher Jones here, I want to talk to Bob Lund.” For those who haven’t seen previous posts, Bob was a GM VP and General Manager of Chevrolet!  “Hey Bobby, Fletcher Jones here.  How are you and the wife?  Yeah, still hot out here. When are you going to come visit? Bob, I need to ask you a question.” Jones turned to me and said, “Hey, what’s your name again?”  I told him. “Bob, I have one of your Campbell-Ewald guys by the name of Tom Cavanagh here who says that you guys are adding us to the Spot Market list.  Are you?” What if Lund said no?  Was this how my career was to end…limping out of a dealership in Las Vegas? Maybe I’m not too old for med school. “You are!!! Bob, that’s great news.  I’ll tell my local agency to plan around your buys. Take care, bye!”  Bob Lund had just arbitrarily made the decision that our media scholars were slaving over. Fletcher Jones wheeled around toward me with a smile on his face.  “Son,” he said, “sometimes you have to know when to push ’em.”

#3 WRAP YOURSELF WITH THE CLIENT

This example is pretty straightforward. Align yourself with powerful, or soon to be powerful, people who work at the client. Dick O’Connor, who started at Campbell-Ewald as a trainee in 1956, was the Chevy Account Director. He reported directly to Tom Adams, the chairman. As I had mentioned, being a field guy was the best way to pick up on rumors about change. Information leaks didn’t move from Detroit out, but from the field in. Chevy had just promoted a fellow to the job of General Sales Manager. It was their second highest position. His best agency buddy was Paul John, who worked for Dick O’Connor. The new GSM was traveling to all of the Chevy regions to meet the staffs and key dealers. Paul John accompanied him. My fellow field guys who had attended the meetings told me that Paul was being introduced as the Chevy Account Director!!  What?? We had received no company memo. What was going on? The regional meetings ended just as Campbell-Ewald was calling us to Detroit for Greek civilization, Plinth of kouros statue, bas-relief depicting wrestlers, circa 510 B.C., detail, from Kerameikos necropolis in Athens, Greeceour field meetings. We were gathered in the conference room on the first morning, waiting to hear from our Field Director. Instead, in walked Tom Adams and Dick O’Connor. Tom spoke to us. “You may have heard some wild rumors out there that there is a new Account Director. Well, as long as I have anything to say about the running of this agency, Dick here is our Account Director.” That’s what we wanted to hear!  We all applauded. Two days after I returned from the meetings, I got a copy of an all-company memo.

TO: The Staff

From: Tom Adams

Subject: Dick O’Connor Promotion

I am pleased and proud to announce the fact that, effective immediately, Dick O’Connor is being promoted to the position of Vice Chairman of Campbell-Ewald. Dick has served us for almost 20 years. In his new position, Dick will oversee the day-to-day operations of the agency as well as our business development activities. His skill and business acumen have proven to be great assets for this company. Through his leadership, our relationship with our Chevrolet client has grown ever stronger. Please join me in congratulating Dick on this well-earned promotion. By the way, Paul John takes over as Chevrolet Account Director.

Well, at least this meant that the client was happy.

Next:  More Tales From The Darkside