T&E Heaven

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man_and_money_250

There is an old adage that says: “Some men are born to greatness, other men have greatness thrust upon them.” There is an advertising industry corollary to that: “Some men are born to party, other men have parties thrust upon them.”Apparently, I’ve been told, I was both event_120036parts of the corollary. The reasons why have been lost in the mists of time, but the folks at FCB thought I knew how to throw a great party. And I proved them true. But not without some damage to my mental stability. It all began when the birthday of one of our account team was several days off. The prevailing custom was to find out what kind of cuisine the celebrant wanted for lunch. We’d find an appropriate restaurant, and the luncheon would be “expensed” away. Back in those days, we had “employee morale” budgets. They could have also been called “employee morals” budgets, but I digress. The birthday girl said that she’d like to try Chinese for lunch.  I spoke up and forever changed the course of my life. I knew of a great Szechuan place nearby. I was told, “Make it happen.” The next day I went on an “exploratory” lunch to Règǒu, a nifty local Szechuan place. I told them that I wanted to set up a luncheon for twelve people. That got their attention. They streamed out a parade of delectable dishes. I ordered one of each. I didn’t care, we were talking expense account here.eight-major The staff said that they would make the lunch “extra special” for us. They did. We arrived en masse and were blown away by the presentation that greeted us.  The food and service were wonderful. It was a truly wonderful three-hour lunch. Little did I know that the pu-pu platter of my destiny had been set. “Tom, you’ve got a knack for this.  From know on you are in charge of all entertainment”

The genie had been let out of the bottle! I had become the Sol Hurok of FCB. Each birthday lunch was like staging the Olympics. My birthday is March 1st. I was eagerly waiting to see who would take over and plan my birthday lunch. No surprise, I was told that I would plan my own birthday lunch. To add insult to injury, our new EVP’s birthday was March 5th. The executive decision was made to combine our birthday lunches. This was done not so much for financial reasons, as for appearances. The Mazda Account Group was rapidly gaining a reputation (totally undeserved) at the agency as a group of partiers. It wouldn’t look good to have the group gone all afternoon twice in four days. Additionally, as the EVP outranked me, he got to choose the restaurant for our combined birthdays. No problem. I employed another old adage: “Living well is the best revenge.” I suggested to him that it might be fun to make the trek from FCB out to Marrakesh in Studio City.  Great Moroccan food, and we could lie down while we ate. He agreed. Of course, I had to make the “exploratory” trip. We would eat like kings, or rather, khalifas. One of the secretaries mentioned that there would be a “surprise” during the lunch. As long as it wasn’t my credit card being declined, I was fine with it. We had gorged ourselves on couscous, hummus, lamb, bastilla, and harira, and were Marrakkeshabout to start our third round of camel spit shooters, when the music started. Two of the secretaries had slipped away, changed, and come to the table as belly dancers. then the party really began, much to the chagrin at the people sitting near us. The tacit agreement between all of us was that Personnel was never to hear about this. Most of us drove straight home after lunch.

Management decided that I was ready for the big time…at least as far as being the agency’s Perle Mesta. The 1980 National Automobile Dealers’ Association was coming up. Five days of non-stop feasting, drinking, partying, and party-sceneestate planning seminars. Even though it was a dealer convention, the manufacturers came to entertain their dealers and get yelled at by them at the “Make Meetings.” FCB was going to throw the mother of all dinner parties for our Mazda clients. I was only given one directive, “Make it special.” There were going to be twenty of us. The dinner was set for a Thursday night during the NADA convention, this year in Las Vegas.

I called the event planning company putting on the huge Mazda Dealer Reception the next night to ask for some suggestions for our dinner.  The place had to be quiet, excellent, classy, private, off of The Strip, and would bill me as I knew that the tab on this would melt my credit card. Without any hesitation, she said, “David’s.” David’s was a swanky restaurant that looked like a colonial-styled funeral home from the South. It was about five miles west of The Strip on W. Sahara Rd. Lots of gold and formal-dinner-party (1)marble, and Roman statues. I met with their banquet manager to develop a menu. Premium-brand liquor served by lovely Roman toga-clad goddesses during the cocktail reception. Lobster rolls and caviar to snack on. For dinner, we would have Caesar salad, crab bisque, sorbet, beef Wellington, and baked Alaska. All of it washed down with gallons of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. For after dinner, we had cheese plates and cognac…with some fine cigars. After we were sated, our Mazda clients staggered out in groups, until there was just myself and Denny Remsing. The maitre’d gave me the check. With the mandatory 20% gratuity, the bill came to $5882.98. Denny said, “Can you cover that, because my card won’t.” I told him not to worry, as I had arranged for a direct bill to FCB. I signed the tab, attached my business card, and left for an evening of NADA debauchery.

The following morning I received a frantic call from my office. David, himself, had called and was looking for me.  I was to call him immediately.  Uh-oh. I called the restaurant and asked for David. He was livid. “You walked out onShakedown a $6000 tab.  I want you to get you ass over her right now and give me my money. Nobody runs out on me!” I figured that David wasn’t in the mood for any type of customer service lessons. I told him that I had arranged for them to bill FCB. He said he knew nothing of it. He wanted to know what hotel I was in. Fortunately, I had the brains to not tell him. I told him that I would call our office and have them expedite a check to him.  He wanted his money now. I called the office.  They said they couldn’t send a check without the dinner bill. I called and left a message for David, telling him that the check would be cut on Monday, when I got back. I found out that David called my office many times that day, demanding to know where I was staying. The office didn’t rat me out. I kept a low profile for the rest of the weekend, not dancing on tables, getting kicked out of bars, or starting fights in parking lots. On Monday, I got to the office early and had the check processed. While it was being signed, David called.  “I’ve sent a couple of fellows over to you office to pick up my money.” I peaked down the staircase and saw two guys in trench coats who looked like Clemenza and Tessio. Our bookkeeper ran the check down to them.  They left. I exhaled.

Two weeks later, our controller called to tell me that the check to David hadn’t been cashed. I called the restaurant to discover that I had reached a number that was “no longer in service.” I called my event planning friend who Arson_t607gave me the news. David’s Restaurant had mysteriously burned to the ground the Wednesday after we had given them the check. On top of that, nobody knew what had happened to David. He had apparently vanished. Just goes to show you, you don’t mess with the T.C.!!!!   

 

Next: More Fine Dining

We Go To The Mattresses

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Mattresses

Mid-summer, 1978, was approaching. Something unimaginable happened! A lowly account executive (me…or I, to use better grammar) was asked to help develop the upcoming year’s marketing strategy. People actually sat down and hammered these things out. Up until this point, I had always believed that new car model year marketing and creative strategies were left underneath the table of booth #3 at the London Chop House by the Strategy Fairy. The advertising agency scrutinized the documents, then instructed their account people to write creative planning requests, which the creative department dutifully turned into great advertising. In late June, Mazda give us a presentation outlining their objectives and strategies for the coming model year. We were briefed on the new models, and what competitive advantages they had. They told us their demographic targets. They then left the room with a hearty 頑張ってね! Bonne chance! Our keeping the Mazda account depended largely on how wonderful our presentation would be. The work on the 1979 Plan would begin in earnest. My guess is thatBoring Presentation we would commandeer one of the conference rooms, probably the main one, for the next month or so.  This would be the “War Room” my friends at other agencies had described to me. Sixteen-hour days going over data, looking at consumer trends, swilling coffee, ordering Big Macs, and wondering what daylight looked like. I was up for the challenge. Long, tedious hours that would test the mettle of any human. Would I be able to stand up to the challenge? I was soon to discover that I would, and enjoy it!

Denny Remsing, my boss, told me that we were NOT going to build a War Room in the main conference room. Instead, we would be “going to the mattresses.” For those of you unfamiliar with the term, this was used by Mafia families when they wanted to hide out from the police, from other mob families gunning for them, or to just “disappear” for a while. Our purpose was the last one. Denny said, “Tom, we have to stay away from the distractions of the office, from telephone calls, from mundane meetings, from sales calls, and from the ‘pressures’ of an ordinary work environment.” Made sense to me. The next day, we took out adjoining lanai rooms at the Sheraton Town House. Since the agency was only about 200 yards away, assistants could run messages and mail over to us. Armed with briefcases full of data, legal sized notepads, pencils, changes of clothes, and our swim suits, we checked in. I Pooldid mention that the rooms were poolside, didn’t I? Room service sure beat Big Macs, and the margaritas beat cold coffee. I did, however, have to go buy some sunscreen. I planned on expensing it.

We worked slavishly away. After work, the secretaries and account assistants would selflessly drop by to help interpret the data, analyze trends, empty the mini-bars, and check the chlorine levels in the Town House pool. Denny and I were employing the FCB “Know The Consumer” process to develop the finished document. We would examine each aspect of the marketplace, distill the information to a key fact, then use the assembled key facts to develop objectives and strategies. We would also use distilled agave juice to help us arrive at an overall conclusion. Our work was so powerful, I think that Datsun and Toyota sent spies over to try and steal some of our insights. Whenever we had the account team over to help us _DSC3170 (Custom) (2)out by playing and dancing to “Hollywood Nights” by Bob Seger, Abba’s “Take A Chance on Me,” and the soundtrack to “Grease” while checking the chlorine levels in the pool, these spies, dressed as aluminum siding salesmen from Des Moines, would emerge from the bar in their cheesy suits, and just sit and stare at us for hours and hours.

July 11, 1978, a day that will live forever in the annals of women’s rights. I also remember that date as it was the day of the 49th annual MLB all-star Game, the broadcast of which is also part of this story. Denny and I finished the 1979 Marketing and Advertising Plan. We would, along with the Creative Director and the Associate Media Director, be presenting to Mazda at our offices. The Associate Media Director was presenting, even though the Geisha_Kyoto_Gionactual Media Director had put the media portion of the plan together, because he was a male and the Director was a woman. The erroneous prevailing thought back then was that, because Japanese women had no or little role in business in Japan, our Mazda client might be reluctant to deal with a woman. The Associate Media Director was put forward as the agency’s Mazda Media Man. Of course, this did not sit well with the Media Director. She sat in the back of the room for the presentation.  As the clients filed out to join us for lunch at the Wilshire Country Club, one of them asked the Media Director if she would be joining us.  She immediately said, “Yes!” A quick call to the club added another chair at the table. Everyone’s spirits were running high thanks to the cocktails, wine, and the excellent marketing plan Denny and I had written. The lunch was winding down, and the table talk was getting louder, when the EVP of Mazda asked our Media Director a question. “If you are the Media Director, why haven’t we seen at any meetings?” She had to almost shout across the table to him because of the other loud conversations. “It’s because management thinks I’ll say “sh%t” at a meeting.”  What she didn’t know was that all the Mazda clients had heard the question and they all stopped talking just in time to hear her answer. The last “t” of her response was still echoing through the room when our president looked across the table at her and said, “Yes, my dear, that’s exactly why we keep you away from our Mazda client.” This was followed by three seconds of awkward silence. Then all of the Mazda clients broke out laughing. “We think this is wonderful,” they said. “We don’t get to work with female executives in Japan.” These presentation lunches were always followed by golf or tennis.  “Are you going to play golf or tennis with us?” they asked. “Well,” she said, “I don’t play golf but I can run home and get my tennis stuff and meet you on the courts.”

The golf and tennis came off without a hitch. The golfers showered and changed for dinner at the club. The tennis courts were at the Sheraton Town House, so the tennis players used my lanai room to change and have some refreshments. A lot of refreshments. The Media Director showered and changed first, while the rest of us gathered around the television to watch the All-Star game. She soon joined us, as the next person went off to cleanse himself. I ordered more towels. The room had Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 10.23.24 PMbecome thick with cigar smoke and shower steam. The game was tied going into the bottom of the 9th. Goose Gossage was brought in to pitch for the AL. Steve Garvey led off with a triple, scoring on a Gossage wild pitch. A walk, and error, and three singles scored three more runs.  The NL fans in the room were going wild. Mazda’s Marketing Director, a rabid NL fan, was in the shower when the shouting started. Clutching a towel in front of himself, he came into the room to watch.  After about five minutes, he realized that he was standing behind our seated Media Director. So did everyone else. “Don’t worry,” she said. “I was raised with three brothers.  You don’t have anything I haven’t seen a lot of before.” From that day on, she attended every presentation.  

Next: T&E Heaven

I Learn About International Trade

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Glamor

MITI. Japan’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry. They called the shots in Japan when it came to manufacturing and international trade. Truth be told, MITI was happy when the U.S. imposed import quotas on how many Japanese cars could be imported here. Once they had a finite quota number, they were able to parcel out allocations to the Japanese car manufacturers based on “what was hot.” Datsun was selling well, especially with the Z car.  Give them a bigger piece of the pie. Mazda was still reeling from their reliance on rotary engines, so they got a smaller piece, until they could prove otherwise to MITI. The Japanese imports fought desperately for market share. They were more willing to try unconventional media ideas than Detroit. One of these ideas, for Mazda, was to venture into the shadowy world of “skin magazines.” You have to remember, this was still the 70s, still no universal internet access to titillation. Playboy, still considered taboo by many, and Penthouse, considered taboo by almost everybody, had just about given up getting any automotiveLittle Boy Penthouse advertising. But then, sometimes the forbidden fruit is the sweetest. The decision was made that Mazda was going to advertise in both, as well as Oui, a Playboy spinoff. The client was quite adamant that “it made sense from a demographic point of view.” Well, yes, men in droves did read these magazines.

We inked the deal.  The magazines were so excited that they immediately asked us to provide them with a list of Mazda executives who should be put on the magazine “comp” list. Mazda came back to us with a list of about 20 people. Of Playboy_Penthousecourse, we couldn’t convince the magazines that there were 20 people at Mazda who had input on media decisions. The list was cut to 10. We received frequent phone calls asking us when the comp copies would start arriving. I should point out that Mazda was not alone in this quest. Many of the Japanese car companies started advertising in this category. Back then, Playboy was all about “the girl next door.” Even though the Playmates were anything but. Penthouse went for the “girl you’d pick up at a strip club and who might beat you up.” This was pretty accurate. There was a smattering of angry letters from religious organizations and irate parents in Texas. In general, however, Mazda weathered the tide. The comps started arriving, and all was right with Mazda. I did, however, notice a strange phenomenon. After several months, I still had not seen one of the magazines in any of the Mazda offices. Were they taking them home? Probably not.

In my post of 10/31/13, I discuss the concepts of tatemae and honne. I was soon to discover the honne of advertising in Playboy and Penthouse. Until recently, Japanese censors were pretty strict about what could andplayboy1 couldn’t be shown of the human body. Japanese-language editions of Playboy and Penthouse had the “naughty bits” blacked out. International mail was checked lest someone send an American edition back home. If discovered, the censors dutifully, and with great care, affixed stickers over the offending parts. Any attempt to remove the sticker would tear the page. Every piece of mail that came into the country had to go through a customs check. I Customspreviously mentioned the all-powerful MITI. They convinced the Japanese government that anything that slowed down international trade was bad for the country. That included business mail from the United States. I should also note that business was conducted differently in Japan. It was an expense account economy.

And, public officials were often given small presents to help them make decisions. I asked one of my Mazda clients about the vanishing magazines. He and I had advanced to a honne level of conversation.  He told me. “Tom,” he explained, “we can’t get American versions of Playboy and Penthouse in Japan. Censors find them in customs and place stickers on them. However, correspondence from the U.S. branches of Japanese companies is allowed to be sent in diplomatic pouches. This speeds their delivery. Every month, we 20100501-salary D-AR02-22 japan-photo.detake all 10 copies of each magazine and send them in the diplomatic pouch. They are very valuable in Japan.” I knew where this was going. “So,” I asked, “they become gifts for Mazda executives to give to the folks at MITI?” He nodded. I decided to call my friend, the rep from Psychology Today. “Joe,” I said, “if you want to get on the Mazda media schedule, next month’s issue has to have a foldout of Miss Nude Schizoaffective Disorder.”

But all did not stay peaceful in Licentiousland. The Penthouse rep contacted us about putting on a dinner for us and key Mazda clients. She hoped to seal the deal by telling us that two Penthouse Pets would be there. Everyone RSVP’d “Yes.” All of Mazda’s top management would attend. The dinner was held in a private room at a very nice LA restaurant. Cocktails flowed freely as we waited for our host and the “guests of honor” to arrive. Her assistant had put out copies of the magazines in which the ladies appeared. I don’t know how I would have reacted if, while eating dinner, the person next to me was going through a magazine full of pictures of me in my birthday suit. business_dinnerThe two Pets were polar opposites in looks, demeanor, and intelligence. Hildegard Grossebruste was from Hamburg, Germany. Brunette, with flawless English. Bambi Fay Culpepper was from Kermit, Texas. Blonde, with a hardscrabble look to her, she didn’t have flawless English. Hildegard was seated next to me at the long dinner table. Bambi Fay was across from me. Hildegard had married a GI to get in to the U.S. He left her and their daughter a few months after getting here. She admitted that she wasn’t very proud of her magazine layout, but she needed the $10,000 that it paid. She wanted to “become a movie star” but was worried that her appearance in Penthouse would ruin her chances. I said, “Hey, it didn’t stop Vanessa Williams.”

Bambi Fay was a different story.  I asked her whether Kermit was in West Texas. She said yes. I asked her if it was near Midland-Odessa.  She said, “I think so. On Saturday nights the boys put a couple of us girls in the back of a pickup truck and drive to Midland to party. It takes about half an hour, so I guess it’s nearby.” It soon became apparent that the only reason Bambi was here was for the opportunity to down vast amounts of Jack and Coke. Soon, to use a Texas term, she proceeded to get snot slinging drunk. She very loudly complained that she would rather be at the Whiskey a Go-Go, or The Troubadour, rather than at “a dinner with a bunch of foreigners.” Then she got sloppy, knocking over drinks. When our host admonished her, Bambi let fly with enough profanity to peel the paint off of an oil rig. She jumped to her feet and said, “You all can go frag (she didn’t actually say frag) yourselves. I’m out of here. Half you guys can’t even speak English good.” Hildegard jumped to her feet. “Bambi,” she said, “you are being very rude. You wouldn’t be in LA at a fabulous restaurant if it wasn’t for these nice gentlemen. Behave Women Fightingyourself and sit down!” Bambi wasn’t having any of this. She came around the table and took a swing at Hildie.  She missed and went flying into the dessert tray. She stood up, wiped the tiramisu off of her face, and stormed out. This pretty much ended the dinner. The Penthouse rep was horrified. On the verge of tears, she and Hildegard bade farewell to the Mazda clients…who had seen and heard quite enough. Penthouse was soon cut from the media schedule.

The next morning, Hildegarde showed up at the agency. One of our creative guys at the dinner said that he’d like to talk to her about putting her in TV commercials.

Next: We Go To The Mattresses

How Can You Eat That? We Don’t Even Like That In Japan!

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Mazda Factory

Mikiro “Miki” Sato.  He was the “factory guy” working in the Compton offices of Mazda Motors of America – Central. His employer was Toyo Kogyo, and he held the title of “Assistant to the President.” The president in this case was Toru “Tim” Ogawa who ran MMA- C. The Assistant to the President job is very different from our notion. He doesn’t make appointments for the president, make his lunch dates, does not pick him up at the airport, or buy his gifts for him.  In short, he is not a bag smasher. The Assistant to the President is a very key position. He is the eyes and ears to management. His job is to discretely make sure management initiatives are implemented. He made sure that everything was running smoothly here, and each night sent a parcel to Hiroshima giving them updates. Something like a master sergeant. Miki and I became very close friends and he taught me more about the universality of the human race than anyone ever had.

Toyo Kogyo took up most of the shoreline on Hiroshima Bay. They were to the city as Ford was to Dearborn. Small boys grew up hoping to land a job with Toyo Kogyo. Particularly galling to Mazda was their position and awareness in the U.S. market. In Japan, and around the world, they were a major player. In the U.S., they trailed pipsqueaks like Datsun and Honda. About a week after I started, Tim Ogawa and the rest of Mazda executive management came to the agency for a meeting. Mazda’s American management was mostly made up of former Chrysler folks. As the meeting started, I sad-businessmandidn’t notice the look of apprehension on the faces of our people. Mr. Ogawa got right to the point. “There is a cancer destroying Mazda in this country. And, with any cancer, it must be cut out. He looked at his people, “It might be our management.” He looked at us, “It might be the ad agency.” He looked at the floor, “It might be our products. Whatever it is, we must find it and cut it out.” Hhmmmm.  I wonder if we could get our house in Detroit back? Fortunately, we found out that the agency wasn’t the carcinogen.

Miki Sato became one of my primary client contacts.  We also became good friends. He told me that the Japanese Mazda executives were required to attend school on Saturdays to improve their English skills. A weekly assignment was to bring in a newspaper editorial and be prepared to discuss it. The rationale here was that editorials wouldn’t contain grammatical errors, but would still be written to be understood by the average American. Driven by his example, and by a desire to broaden my horizons, I enrolled inkanjifirst Japanese language and culture classes. I soon discovered how lucky English speakers are.  We only have one alphabet, and that only has 26 letters. Japanese uses four major “alphabets.” There are kanji…over 2300 pictograms derived from Chinese. First graders have to memorize 80 characters. Miki told me that by the time he’d reached 6th grade, he had to know more than 900 of them. There are also the hiragana and katakana alphabets, developed to augment kanji and to accommodate Western terms, places, and phrases. Each of these has 48 characters. Then there is romajithe Western alphabet used to write out words for Westerners. THANK YOU becomes 有り難う in kanji,  ありがとうin hiragana, nothing in katakana, and arigato in romaji. My Japanese instructor also told me about “honorifics,” and when to use them in public, the voice to use to my children and wife, and the voice to use when addressing my parents. I also learned about the Japanese concepts of tatemae and honne. Tatemae means the public facade we present, what is normal, polite, and expected. Honne is the reality behind tatemae…true intention.  They Pieare very subtle concepts. My teacher explained it this way. “Tom, you’re eating dinner at Thanksgiving. You’re still hungry, when the host offers you the last piece of pumpkin pie. Even though you are still hungry, you don’t want to appear greedy, so you decline.  That’s tatemae. But inside, you’d kill for that last piece. That’s honne.”

Miki and I both loved to eat. Surprise!! I told him that we’d eat our way around the world. We started with a lunch at El Chavo for Mexican. The next lunch was Chinese. Then Korean. We did German. French. Then we went to a great sushi bar in Gardena. I wanted to show him my love of all things sushi, and how well my Japanese was coming. I pointed at something in the sushi bar and said, what came out as, “Corey wahh nan desooka?” Miki looked at me.  “What?” I repeated myself. “Tom,” he said, “what are you trying to say?” I told him. “What is this?” He smiled. “Oh. Well you were kind of close.”  That was tatemae. Honne would have been “You suck.” I decided to impress him with my sushi skills. We started ordering more exotic things.  All delicious. I asked Miki to order something “special” for me. He natto 1did, and the sushi chef rolled his eyes and nodded. A minute later a bowl of natto with a raw egg on it arrived. “What is natto?” I asked. Miki said, “Soybeans. Make sure you mix the egg into it.” Yummmm. The gooey stringiness of it should have been a red flag. It smelled like a bad cheese and had the consistency of Elmer’s Glue. I gagged on it as it coated my tongue, gums, teeth, uvula, and larynx. It didn’t help when Miki told me how natto was made. Basically, you soak soybeans in water for 24 hours, and then layer them between sheets of rice straw and leave them in the sun until they rot. He asked me how I liked my natto. “Not bad,” I lied.  That was tatemae. He said, “My mother always made me eat that for breakfast. I hated it.  How can you eat that? We don’t even like that in Japan!” That…was honne.

Our honne relationship grew over the next few months. He was worried about his daughters. They were becoming very Americanized.  This would not help them when the family moved back to Hiroshima. Miki had to hire tutors to keep his girls’ Japanese language skills current with girls their ages. He knew that his promotion back to Toyo Kogyo would take a toll on his family. They had lived in Southern California for almost six years. His daughters had been three and five when they arrived. They had already told their father that they didn’t want to move back. Miki got the news that he was being transferred back in December of 1978. He was leaving shortly after January 1. My wife and I had our first child on December 20, 1978. A baby boy. Miki congratulated me on his birth. We went to lunch one last time. As  he was leaving our offices, he turned and vigorously shook my hand, protocol prohibiting a hug. We didn’t speak. As he left, he looked back and said, “Tom, I have something for you. I left it with Mary, my secretary.” I said my thanks and said I would pick it up. Several days later, I went to Miki’s now empty office. Mary handed me a crumpled brown shopping bag. In it was a present wrapped in expensive whiteKoi paper, tied up with a white satin ribbon. That evening, my wife and I opened it. We noticed that the paper was worn and the ribbon a little frayed. Inside was a beautiful silk carp kite. “What a nice gift,” we thought. A few weeks later, in my Japanese class, I mentioned the gift to my sensei. I told her about the wrapping. She asked the color.  “White.” She asked if the present seemed “old.” I said yes. Her face saddened. She asked, “He gave this to you for the birth of your son?” Again, I said yes. She said, “And your friend Miki has no sons? Do you know the meaning of what he has given you?” Uh-oh. She explained to me that a traditional wedding gift for a young couple is a carp kite, wrapped in white and presented by the bride’s parents as a good luck gesture.  It is only to be opened upon the birth of their first son, and then flown over the house on May 5th of each year…Boy’s Day (now Children’s Day). It tells everyone that you have a son. Miki and his wife had given us this incredible gift, knowing that they would never be able to use the carp kite. How selfless!!! That night, I wrote Miki a letter. “Sato-san – my wife and I wish to thank you for your wonderful gift upon the birth of our son. We want you to know that your Koinobori no Sato will fly proudly above our house this coming Tango no Sekku.” And it did.  And that’s honne!

Next: Fast Times At FCB High

These Guys Are A Lot Different From GM!

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teaHippie

I landed at LAX at 3:30 PM, and it already felt different. This was to be my new home. There was no thought that someone would walk into my office and tell me that I was being transferred back to Detroit. I was filled with giddy anticipation, looking forward to working with new people, new clientsTown House  new cultures, and…a new FREE CAR! Even though it was a bottom-of-the food-chain Mazda GLC (the Great Little Car), it was free. FCB/H put me up at the Sheraton Town House Hotel. A beautiful, faded-glory hotel situated next to Lafayette Park, on Wilshire Blvd. The Town House was declared a historical landmark in 1993, and is now a low-income apartment building. Upon checking in, I received a note from FCB/H, welcoming me to LA. Classy! Having no idea where to grab a bite to eat, I ordered room service, kicked off my shoes and turned on KABC News and Jerry Dunphy. At this time, FCB was located at 2727 West 6th Street…right across Lafayette Park from the Sheraton Town House.  It is now the home of South Baylo University (not to be confused with the school in Waco, TX) a school teaching acupuncture. It was maybe two hundred yards away.  A simple walk, or so I thought. I would discover that getting across the park was a little more challenging than driving down Woodward Ave.

Dawn dawned. I was showered, shaved, and English Leathered. It was 8:45 AM when I strode out the door and into the park. I had to diagonally traverse the park to get to the front door of FCB. As I left the safety of the sidewalk, I immediately encountered three young men sitting on a picnic table, smiling at me.  Being a good son of Michigan, I smiled back. The largest of the three got up and approached me.  A lot of non-verbal cues told me that he was not part of the agency welcoming committee. He slowly opened his left hand to show me several one inch by one inch plastic packages that seemed to contain some kind of white powder. Sensing that it might not be Bromo-Seltzer, I quickly moved on. A few yards later I heard some shouting that seemed to be getting closer. A woman was screaming at a man who was carrying a purse while he ran away from her. Maybe he’d dropped his wallet.

Lafayette

I quickened my pace.  I could see the safety of the 6th Street sidewalk just steps away. I turned quickly and headed down the sidewalk for the crossing signal. An elderly lady approached me from the other direction. She stopped directly in front of me, screaming “You can go to Hell, Lewis!” She then moved her legs apart, bent her knees slightly, and relieved herself on the sidewalk and my new Thom McAns. She was definitely NOT from any welcoming committee.  I crossed the street and made my way toward the FCB front doors. There is a long hedge in front of the building. While passing it, I Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 12.07.16 AMheard a noise come from the bushes. I stopped, stupidly, to inspect it.  From within the bush came a voice, “Sir, keep moving. You’re interfering with an LAPD drug action.” Suddenly, his radio crackled…”It’s going down. Go! Go! Go!” The hedge gave birth to an LAPD undercover officer dressed as a homeless person. He raced across the street as other undercover officers emerged from trees, dumpsters, and out of cars. As they ran into the park, I could see that they were chasing the three young gentlemen selling Bromo-Seltzer. I’m going to love working here!

I entered the lobby and introduced myself. Denny Remsing came out, greeted me, and took me to my office…which had a glorious view of Lafayette Park. I told him about my park adventure. He said, “Stick to the sidewalks.” He then began to explain the Byzantine organization of our Mazda client. In the beginning, there was Toyo Kogyo of Hiroshima. They started out as a rock drill company at the start of the 20th Century, but began manufacturing motor vehicles. Toyo Kogyo came to North America riding on the success of rotary powered cars. In the U.S., they established three importing/distribution companies. One in Jacksonville, FL. One in Chicago. And one in Compton, CA. When the first gas crisis hit, the not so fuel efficient rotary engine cars suffered.  Toyo Kogyo was going broke. They sold the Jacksonville importing company to the C. Itoh Trading Company.  Toyo Kogyo’s bank, Sumitomo, took over Chicago. Toyo Kogyo held onto Compton. There was a slight gordian_knotproblem. C. Itoh and Sumitomo were major competitors. They had different ideas on how to package, price, and market Mazda vehicles. To compound the issue, Toyo Kogyo had to shut down their Compton operation, with Sumitomo taking it over, and moving the executives to Southern California from Chicago.  In the U.S. , Mazda was now really two companies: Mazda Motors of America – Central (Sumitomo decided not to change the name of the company when it moved to the West Coast); and Mazda Motors of America – East headquartered in Jacksonville and owned by C. Itoh. Toyo Kogyo still made the cars, but sold them to Sumitomo and C. Itoh to market in this country. MMA – C covered two-thirds of the country, MMA – E the East and South. 

Denny asked, “Are you still following me?” I lied and nodded my head. He continued on to explain that the two importers had different base prices and option packages. This pretty much eliminated any network television ads featuring price. Also, Toyo Kogyo, Sumitomo, and C. Itoh all contributed to the ad budget, requiring three separate sets of budgets. Ads had to be approved by representatives of each company, requiring frequent trips to the dank heat and humidity capitol of America, Jacksonville, FL.  I was also informed that I would be in charge of providing budget information to the clients. Yippee!!

Denny then asked me a question that would change my life. “It’s almost noon.  Do you like Mexican food?”

Next: Pink Margaritas in Beer Flutes

Another “Close But No Cigar”

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Missing-The-Target

America and Chevrolet had survived the Bicentennial.  I had learned that playing cards at The Recess Club was a very bad idea. We settled into the task of churning out ads. Denizens of the GM Building soon discovered that the fastest way of getting from the 4th Floor (Campbell-Ewald) to the 2nd Floor (Chevrolet) was to take the interior stairs. The elevators took too long, and you always ran the risk of a Ford or Chrysler spy seeing the layout for the newest Vega ad you were carrying down for approval. There were over a dozen Account Men calling on as many clients. The stairway climbs began about 8:30 AM and continued well past 6:00 ant_farm_2PM. Up and down. Up and down.  If someone were able to cut away the outside of the GM Building, we would appear to be worker ants carrying around bits of food and waste. The only times we took the elevator were for lunch, or to go up to the 10th Floor (GM Legal) to be scolded.

On the role of women in the workplace front, not much had changed since the infamous Christmas party of 1971. Apparently, Account Men, especially the married ones, had to be protected from the sharp talons of home-wrecking husband-hunters. And the Personnel Department took this responsibility seriously. One of our married Account Men had taken a liking to a secretary in the Media Department. The “casual” desk walk-by soon evolved into the “Hey, you must have lots of boyfriends,” fishing expedition, then to the “Hey, if you’re free, I’d be honored to buy you lunch,” gambit, then onto the deal-sealer, “Hey, you know what? I hear that the food at Lelli’s (when there was still one on Woodward) is great.  How about we have dinner there tomorrow?” There then followed a succession of lunches and dinners. The Account Man was certain that after his next dinner, at Topinka’s, he would be able to whisk the lady across the street to the Howard Johnson’s Inn. There was one small problem. Putting the moves on a secretary at Campbell-Ewald was a lot like walking around in church without any pants on.  It sure felt good, but everyone immediately knew about it. The morning of the expected HoJo Hoedown arrived, with a note from the VP- Personnel on the Account Man’s desk.  “Please see me right away,” it said. He went over to HookerPersonnel and was told to come in, close the door, and sit down. The Director got right into it.  “You’ve been seen squiring (yes, he said squiring) a woman from Media around for lunches and dinners. I don’t know how to tell you this, but she’s desperately looking for an Account Man she can sink her hooks into to help her raise her kids. My advice to you is to stop seeing her.  To continue to do so could ruin your career. In fact, take a look at this.”  The Director opened his desk, took out a piece of paper, and handed it to the Account Man. On it were the names of ten secretaries…the Media lady was #4 on the list. “These women,” the Director said, “are known to be of easy virtue and have loose morals. I would advise you to not be seen in the company of any of them.” After the meeting, the Account Man told me about the meeting.  I asked him if this was going to make him change his ways. His answer parroted the punch line about the hell-raising young man in Ireland who went to confession to tell the priest that he’d had sex with one of the village girls.  “Was it Bridget?” the priest asked. “Mary? Cathleen? Megan? Ann? Margaret? Not Siobhan?” When he emerged from the confessional, the boy’s friends asked him if he’d confessed.  “No,” he said, “but I’ve got some great new leads!”

The news of Datsun firing Parker signaled that yet another Import felt that it had outgrown its agency. Toyota had already kicked Clinton E. Frank to the curb in favor of Dancer, Fitzgerald, Sample in 1975. Honda, also in 1974, fired a little known LA agency called Chiat/Day and moved the business to Needham, Harper & Steers. Now it was Datsun’s turn. The ad agency feeding frenzy began. I was sitting at my desk, writing off my gambling losses, when the phone rang. It was George Beech.  He was a part of the William Esty team pitching Datsun. He said that he was in town, and that a “friend” suggested that he might like to meet with me. Hmmm, if they get the account and hire me, I’m on my way back to LA and a free car! Since it had worked so well before, I suggested we meet for breakfast at the Elias Brothers Big Boy near my house. Our breakfast the next day went very well. They were going to fly me to NYC to meet “the team.” I took a couple of vacation days and went. The William Esty main lobby closely resembled the wood  paneled grandeur of the New York Yacht Club. I’m convinced that 90% of all mahogany in the U.S at the camel-life-11-25-1946-999-M5time was used in the Esty lobby. Seated at a grand desk was a receptionist. I introduced myself.  She smiled and pointed to a large display case behind her.  It was filled with cartons of cigarettes.  “Mr. Cavanagh,” she said, “please help yourself to several cartons of your favorite brand.” Esty was one of the lead agencies for R.J. Reynolds, makers of Camel, Winston, Doral, Pall Mall, and Salem, to name several. When I told her that I didn’t smoke, she looked at me as if I had just desecrated the U.S. flag. I waited, uncomfortably, for my summoning. Someone came out to bring me back to an office. The mahogany stopped when you left the lobby. The decor was now old New York City skyscraper shabby. I met with a few people and found out that the “LA team is all set.” If they hired me, I would be working in New York.  I also sensed a great deal of confusion on Esty’s part as to how to organize the account. There would be a “client contact” team in LA, and the oompah-loompahs in NY who actually did the work. I figured that Esty didn’t stand a chance of getting the business, so I politely ended discussions with them after I got back to Detroit. Imagine my surprise when I heard the news that they had won the Datsun account. Oh well, if at first you don’t succeed…

With a new sense of purpose, and the knowledge that I wasn’t going to ever become Chairman of Campbell-Ewald because nobody had told me that I was the “crown prince” in-waiting, I trudged on and hoped that I never really screwed anything up. The Chevrolet National Car Account had a SVP-Management Supervisor, a VP-Account Director, and four Account Executives.  I was handling the National Small Car Account.  The fellow handling the National Big Car Account had left the agency, leaving an opening. At this time, Campbell-Ewald also handled Ramada Inn. Their headquarters were in Phoenix , AZ. As part of our client service, we stationed a young Account Man in Phoenix. We had become friends when he worked in Detroit in what the agency Ramada logocalled the Multi-Products Group…which meant everything except Chevy. During the Summer of 1977, the temperature in Phoenix was averaging about 283 degrees during the day, while it plummeted to 195 degrees at night. I mentioned to him that there was a spot on the Chevy account that had just opened up that he might be interested in. And, it was only going to be 95 in Detroit. Shortly after that, Tony Hopp left Phoenix to return to Detroit as the National Big Car guy on Chevy at Campbell-Ewald. I wonder whatever happened to him?

Next: The Clouds Part