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

1 Comment

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!

2 Comments

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”

1 Comment

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

I Am Driven Happy

2 Comments

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 4.35.51 PM

After surviving MPG-gate, life rolled on as I toiled in the Sales Promotion and Merchandising vineyards. The Chevrolet Merchandising and Sales Promotion Department was a Byzantine organization of small fiefdoms. My client for the Chevy Small Car Guide was a high-energy young fellow who would soon leave SoapBoxDerbyChevrolet and become a successful car dealer. Others, like Mason Bell, handled projects for years because there was nobody at GM who could do it better. Chevrolet sponsored the Soap Box Derby from 1934 to 1972, Mason was in charge for most of those years. He was also my client for Chevy’s sponsorship of the AAU’s Junior Olympics.  Then there were those who supervised a dog’s breakfast of projects. One of these clients decided to make the best of this situation. The Normandie was a great bar and restaurant across 2nd Ave. from the NormandieGM building. My client would call one of the Campbell-Ewald account men up around 11:30 and tell him that he was going to buy lunch “for the client” at the Normandie at noon. I learned not to answer my phone between 11:30 and noon. He usually held court in a corner booth with his girlfriend, who lived a few blocks away, near another GM watering hole called Bonaparte’s. One day, the Director of Merchandising and Sales Promotion had seen enough.  It was now 2:00 and he knew that his employee was probably having a high time at the Normandie. “I’m going over there to fire him right now,” he said as he left for the Normandie. That’s when my client’s Early Warning System went into effect. As soon as the Director had left the area, a secretary speed-dialed the Normandie to a phone behind the bar. “Code Red, Code Red!” the bartender yelled across the room to my client. My client bolted up, kissed his mistress, and ran to the back of the restaurant, where a small door exited onto 2nd Ave. He could look up to the second floor of the GM Bldg. Running Manand see his office window and his secretary looking down on the street. As soon as she saw the Director charge through the front door, she gave him the signal to bolt across the street and into the 2nd Ave. entrance to the GM Bldg. The Director stopped in the middle of the restaurant and scanned the room.  “Where is he?” he demanded. “Nobody’s seen him since last week,” the bartender said…not realizing that the Director had not mentioned a specific name. The Director ran back to his office, and found my client at his desk, talking on the phone with a Chevy dealer. This round went to my client.

Not all of the rounds went to him, however. I can deal with a great amount of crude behavior, but when it impacts my career, it’s time to act. This client lived with his wife and family in Farmington, MI. I don’t know if the wife knew about the “friend” he saw every day at work. On several occasions, when we were going out of town together, the client would ask me to drive him to the airport.  I would drive from Royal Oak, out to Farmington, and back down to Detroit Metro.  The trip would be repeated when we returned to Detroit. I thought this was client service. Due to my naiveté, I didn’t know that he was turning in his own expenses for mileage and airport parking to Chevy. We went to Florida to show some layouts to a sports marketing partner.  The client had approved the layouts.  The sports marketing partner went nuts when he saw them, saying, “This isn’t what we wanted!  Where are the finished posters?” My client, climbing behind the wheel of the bus that was about to run me over, said, “Tom, I told you that this stuff wasn’t right.” I went back to Detroit alone to “fix” things. My client stayed Lady_Justice_Sky.262223325_stdbehind to play a few more days of golf. That evening a call from one of the other Account Men.  I was being taken off of the project, and he was being put on it. This client’s Waterloo came when he forced me to buy him lunch, then forced another Account Man to buy dinner for him. When both of our expense accounts hit management desks for approval, a flag went up. We were called into a meeting with my boss’s boss, and the Director of Merchandising and Sales Promotion. Apparently, Chevy had been building a case against this guy for a while. Still smarting from the bus tire tracks on my back, I turned state’s evidence. My client was transferred to Chevy’s Vladivostok Zone.

In spite of my turbulent times in Merchandising, management felt that my California time had deluded me enough to think that big cars weren’t coming back, and promoted me to National Small Car Advertising Account Executive. “Small Cars” included any vehicle with a 100″ wheelbase or less.  This included the Vega, Chevette, Monza, and, surprisingly, the Corvette which had a wheelbase of 98″. Perhaps because they felt pity for me, I was also assigned the Camaro (108″) and the Nova (111″). The Big Car account executive handled Chevelle (Malibu and Laguna), Chevy Caprice, and Chevy Impala. Chevy trucks were handled by the strange guys down the hall.

Campbell-Ewald’s slogan at the time was “Advertising Well-Directed.” The logo featured a writing quill hitting the bull’s-eye of a target. Pretty succinct. Shortly after I assumed my new duties, I was given the chance to to do some well-directed advertising.  I was being sent to New York City to supervise a Chevy Chevette commercial. I had no idea what an AE was supposed to do at a shoot, other than to look after the client’s interests. The Chevette’s new theme was “Chevy Chevette. It Will Drive You Happy.” Building on the popularity of David Naughton’sdr-pepper-ad-1970s performance in the classic “I’m A Pepper  Wouldn’t You Like To Be A Pepper Too?” Dr. Pepper spot, we developed a commercial for Naughton with him singing the Chevy Chevette theme (complete with singers and dancers) as he skipped around a Chevette while a giant matrix lightbox behind him flashed pictures of standard features. It was going to be done in one complete take. I arrived in NYC the day before the shoot and met with the agency creative people attending the shoot. The call was for 6 AM the next morning. The creative folk told me that I didn’t have to be there until 9 AM. The next morning, dressed in my best suit and carrying my new briefcase, I hailed a cab in front of the hotel. I read him the address of the sound stage. It was on 125th St. and 2nd Ave. “Nope,” the cabbie said. I ain’t going there.” This was my first trip to NYC,and unaccustomed to local folkways and mores, I got out and hailed another cab. This time the cabbie said, “Why do you want to go to Harlem?” I told him what I was doing.  He said, “Whatevvuh, but I don’t think there’s any movie studios up there.” He dropped me at the corner and sped away. I found the address over a very heavy iron door. I knocked and was let in. Singers and dancers were practicing, David Naughton was going over the staging with our art director. A lot of people were just standing around, drinking coffee and Film-Directorand eating doughnuts. After an hour, the decision was made to start shooting. Surely they didn’t send me out here to do nothing. I wanted to make some type of contribution.  The director shouted, “Action!” David and the chorus came out singing and dancing. The giant matrix was flashing.  David approached the car.  The camera began to back up. I realized that the camera was going to back up over a wayward cable on the floor. It would ruin the whole take!! I finally could be of some worth.  I picked up the cable and moved it about three feet out of the way. The director got the take and said, “Cut!” I had been able to do something for the commercial and was feeling quite proud…until a very large hand grabbed my shoulder and turned me around. “Who are you and what the hell are you doing?” the hand asked. “Sir, I’m Tom Cavanagh, Campbell-Ewald’s National Account Executive and I’m here to represent Chevrolet’s interests.” The hand said, “Big whoop!” and walked over to our agency producer. After a brief conversation, he came back with a director’s chair. “Mr. Cavanagh, this chair is just for you.  Why don’t you sit here, and if you see something that needs to be done, you tell me or Sal over there.” Then it hit me. Unions!!!!! I had broken a cardinal rule by doing something that someone else was getting paid to do…even though they hadn’t done it. I learned that on a shoot, the AE’s place was next to the Craft Services table.

Next: Adventures In Creativity  

Behind The Green Curtain

2 Comments

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?”

They Take My Free Car!!!

4 Comments

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