Hills That Is. Swimmin’ Pools. Movie Stars!!!

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We had made it through the Field Meetings alive.  On my way through the 4th Floor Lobby, I stopped to admire the 4′ x 6′ display that had graced the lobby during the meetings.  It was a large map of the United States.  Across the top ran a banner “Our Men In The Field!”  Glued over each Campbell Ewald city containing a field office was a 6″ x 8″ photo of the field guy who was there.  Sure enough, smiling from the center of the United States, plastered on Kansas City, was my company mug shot. Oh, I thought, if only the kids from Emerson Jr. High could see me now.  This would partially make up for the time I stood up in 8th grade science class with my fly wide open.  Who’s laughing now, huh?

When I returned to Kansas City, for three weeks I was the Oracle of Delphi for the Chevrolet people in the Region.  “What does the new Monte Carlo look like?” “What Regional markets are on the spot market media buys?”  “Is it true that GM might come out with a vehicle powered by a Wankel engine?”  “Did you get to touch John DeLorean?”  My Midwestern acculturation had begun.  Life was good.  The people were very friendly.  Johhny Carson came on at 10:30.  The town was beautiful.  The food was incredible.  One of my favorite haunts was The Savoy Grill at 9th and Central.  Opened in 1903, it served incredibletornedos-rossini steaks (of course), and fantastic seafood (go figure).  They also served Tournedos Rossini.  If you haven’t had them, try to find a restaurant that does. They are exquisite! And there’s no truth to the rumor that Tournedos Rossini is French for Myocardial Infarction. What’s unhealthy about a beef filet sautéed in butter, on a large crouton, and topped with a hot slice of butter sautéed foie gras? Sprinkle on some black truffle and a Madeira demi-glace and you’re good to go. Viola! 

By the spring of 1973, I had been so inculcated with things Midwestern that I was now pronouncing the state properly…Mizzourah.  I even bought a light blue seersucker suit.  The only blip in my idyllic life was a decision to drive back to Michigan to see family.  It’s a twelve-hour drive.  Four to get to St. Louis, four to get to Kokomo, and four on up into Michigan.  Leave at 8:00 AM, arrive in Michigan at 9:00 PM, allowing for the time zone change.  For my recent birthday, my wife had purchased for me some Jockey cotton mesh underwear.  She told me it’s the brand Mark Spitz wears.  I all knew was that it made me look like Harry Reems getting ready for an audition.  My big mistake was deciding to wear it for the drive to Michigan, thinking that it would be “cooler.”  Somewhere between St. Louis and Indianapolis I became aware of a searing pain extending from the middle of the back of my thighs up to the small of my back.  Sciatica?  Probably not.  Couldn’t be fatigue.  The bucket seats in my car held you tightly like you were sitting in the palm of a giant.  As we got out of the car in Michigan, I hobbled up to meet the outstretched arms of family waiting to greet their successful son. I explained my agony as a possible pulled muscle.  I sought refuge in the nearest bathroom.  It now felt as though ten thousand needles had been placed into my backside.  As I dropped my pants, and turned to inspect the area, I was horrified!!  Note to self: Don’t wear cotton mesh briefs if Rumpyou’re going to sit on your rear for twelve hours.  I had to take them off.  It proved to be a tricky task, as the mesh had become one with my porcine behind.  It looked like a rolled rump roast. Unfortunately, much of the mesh had burrowed into my skin.  Taking off my briefs was very much like pulling the mesh off of a cooked rolled roast.  There was a distinct “popping” noise as each square of the mesh broke free.  I slept on my stomach that night. The return to Kansas City was uneventful.  I drove back sitting on a pillow.

People in the Midwest kept buying Chevys, and all was right with the heavens. The Region even got Ford to take their “This Is Ford Country” outdoor campaign down, as Chevy was outselling them.  When not out in the field, making sure that the world had a better way to see the USA, field guys were on the phone…with each other. If only one or two guys had heard a rumor about things happening in Detroit, it probably was a false alarm.  Three or four guys, the rumor deserved to be checked out.  A simple majority of the guys meant that a memo confirming it would probably arrive in the overnight pouch.  Thus it was that I found out that I was being transferred.  To where I did not know.  The usual tour of duty had you in the field for two to three years, then back in Detroit.  The rumor was that “someone” was being transferred.  But there were no openings in Detroit at the time.  Did that mean someone was being fired and that poor soul didn’t have a clue.  Then the rumor mill picked up on the fact that Dick Byrne was retiring after 17 years as the LA field guy. Maybe someone was going there.  Some new guy?  One of us?  Within days I discovered that I was one of two names being floated for LA.  Apparently, the other name said “No” as my name was the only one being mentioned.  My comrades asked if I had heard anything about it.  I said, “Hey, I get all my news from you guys.”  Two days later my boss called.  “Tom, I’ve got some exciting news for you.”  “I know,” I said, “I’m being transferred to LA.”  He was incredulous.  “How did you know?”  I told him, “It was in The Hollywood Reporter.”  I learned the talent of messing with people’s minds.

The more I discovered about the position, the more attractive it became.  Nice salary bump.  Only two zones to call on; LA and San Diego.  Larger staff.  I flew to LA to check it out. The LA office housed all of our network clearance people, an account executive who worked on Rockwell, some production people, a guy who was Hwoodin charge of the “Hollywood” fleet of Chevrolets (cars for use in TV production), and the West Coast head of Network Programming.  The programming guy was senior to me (a VP!) so I was officially the number two guy here.  No big deal.  I still had my private secretary, my corner office, and my free car. My office was in the southwest corner of the First Federal of Hollywood building at the corner of Hollywood and Highland. It was torn down to build the Kodak Center.  On clear days I had a view of the Pacific Ocean and the LA basin all the way to Palo Verdes.  On most days I had a clear view of brown air.  In the lobby of the office there were travel posters for UTA Airlines and the Tahitian Tourist Bureau.  I asked if these were Campbell-Ewald clients.  “They used to be,” I was told.  I was then told a story that would, years later, teach me a lot about how ad agencies, and executive management, could make a lot of money in the ad biz.  It seems that Campbell-Ewald, as many agencies did, wanted a larger presence in Southern California.  Building the business took too long.  It was easier to buy an existing LA agency.  So they did.  They bought a vibrant little LA agency called Dailey, for $2 million. By the early 70’s, Campbell-Ewald had decided they couldn’t make a go of it as a full-service West Coast agency and sold it back to Pete Dailey for less than $200,000.  Interpublic had acquired Campbell-Ewald  in 1972.  Twelve years later, Interpublic bought Dailey and Associates for $22.3 million.  The new California Gold Rush was on!!  It was time to say goodbye to Kansas City.  We were heading to LA!      

Next:  “Have You Met Any Movie Stars?”

 

“I got your multiple-linear regression analysis right here!”

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Lured by the siren’s song of a free car, and the glamor that came with it, I enrolled as an Advertising Major at Michigan State University.  I looked forward to taking courses on “How to Shoot a Funny TV Commercial,” “Casting Call 101,” “Bombay or Tanqueray?,” “Creative Expense Account Development,” and “An Executive’s Guide to Tipping.”

Oh the humanity!!  I could find nothing that approximated any of these courses.  My first term I had to take Journalism 101 (I lied about being able to type at 45 wpm), Botany (I needed a “science” and it was rumored that the professor “grew his own”), Econ 101 (taught by a hyper adipose professor who would strip down when it got hot, which would terrorize any coed sitting in the first row of the auditorium), Marketing 101 (taught by a professor whose book we had to buy), Accounting for Non-Accounting Majors (the first day we learned what assets and liabilities were, the next day we were studying collateralized mortgage obligations, defalcation, and high premium convertible debentures), and Advertising 101.

I went to college in the turbulent 60’s. While most college students were turning on and dropping out, practicing free love, and barricading the Student Union, I kept my eye on the prize…a career in advertising and a free car every year.  To do this, I had to take some classes which I knew would never have applicability for me after I graduated.  One of these was Statistics 804.  Yes, that was a graduate level course.  The UAW was striking the auto companies when I got my BA.  Big Three ad budgets were being cut, Detroit agencies weren’t hiring, and since Vietnam didn’t want me because of my blown-out knee, I decided to stay on for graduate school.

Statistics 804 was a required course. It’s like a colonoscopy; something that is awful, but you have to do it.  As with the Accounting course, the first day was a walk in the park. Figuring batting averages? No problem.  The difference between a “mean” and “a median?”  The answer was simple enough to write on my forearm if I had to.  Then came a terrifying sojourn into the dark world of Multiple Linear Regression Analysis.  Simply put, how do X and Y affect Z? Or more simply put:

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Well, if this was going to get me a free car, I could at least fake it.  After studying the formula as if it were the Rosetta Stone, we were assigned a term project:  Develop a thesis that can be proven by the use of multiple linear regression analysis.  During my college years I worked as a repo man for Sears.  More about that later.  My thesis would be to correlate the number of 90-day past due Sears credit card accounts (X) and the number of accounts in default (Y), to the dollar amount of uncollectible write-offs.  If I could pull this off I could pass the course, and give my results to Sears in hopes of them taking me off repo duty.

I diligently went through the credit records of the local Sears store.  I compiled mountains of scintillating data.  Now to crunch the numbers.  For those among you who may not know this, there was a time before we had high-speed computers.  To analyze the data, we had to go _FLEXO (1)to the Business School Building where we would sit for hours and punch the data onto a paper tape.  Once our tape was done, we would sign up for an appointment to “go online” with some mysterious GE computer in some unknown location.  I carefully put the roll of punch tape in the slot, pushed the button, and watched in amazement as reams of printed analysis spewed from the back of the magic box.  I was interested in only one number; the K value.  If it was less than 3.0, my thesis was valid. My eyes frantically searched for the K value.  There it was!!!  The K value for my thesis was… 29.7?  The horror. There was only one week left in the term.  And…there was only one thing left to do: Fake the data.  I knew that this skill would serve me well in the world of advertising.  After tweaking my X, and massaging my Y, I was able to get a K value of 2.9! Perfect.  I passed the course.  I didn’t learn much about multiple linear regression analysis, but I did learn how to put perfume on a pig.

I told the folks at Sears that the data findings were proprietary and couldn’t be given out. They got their revenge later.

Next:  “Oh My God, He’s Got A Gun!”