Adventures In Creativity Part II

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Eliot Janeway

Eliot “Calamity” Janeway. The Doomsday economist. When I got to FCB, he was the “face” of Mazda commercials. Janeway had been an economic advisor to a number of U.S. presidents, going as far back as FDR. His theme was always to save for a rainy day, to survive a credit crunch or depression. In one Mazda spot, he sternly told the viewer to have at least “six months salary put away in safe investments.” Of course, we convinced him to say that buying a Mazda was a good investment. As with many spokespeople, however, the well runs dry. Mazda was preparing to launch the RX-7, a sports car using the rotary engine. Its introduction was expected to make Mazda a player again in this country. We were tasked with coming up with a series of RX-7 launch spots that could “cut through the clutter.” Back then that was a lot easier as TV stations and the networks still honored the 10 minute separation rule, which meant that no competing car commercial could run within 10 minutes of yours.

An up-and-coming young copy writer named Steve Hayden was brought in to develop some TV ideas. I should point out at this time that there was a very popular TV show, based on a movie of the same name, called “The Paper Chase.” It starred the great actor JohnPaper Chase Houseman as the imperious and terrifying law instructor, Professor Charles Kingsfield. His line delivery was unique, given more gravitas with his English accent. We gathered, without the Mazda client, to hear what the concepts were. The different teams presented their ideas. When it was Steve’s turn, he began by telling us that his spot would feature Houseman reprising his Professor Kingsfield role for the Mazda RX-7. I loved the casting against type. Steve began. “The spot opens with John standing behind a podium in a lecture hall. He begins by intoning, ‘The new Mazda RX-7…it will not make ugly men handsome (scenes of the car performing on winding roads, then back to John) it will not make timid women brave (cut to more impressive performance footage then back to John again) but with its new rotary engine it will go 120 miles-per-hour. But………that’s illeeeeegal!'” I thought it was great! So did the rest of us. Unfortunately, the client didn’t, saying that Houseman didn’t convey the “youthful image” of the car.” We were crestfallen, as was Steve Hayden who left the agency shortly later.  I wonder what ever happened to him? Quite coincidentally, a few months later Smith Barney broke this campaign, which was to become iconic.

This might be a good time to discuss something I’ve seen happen in the auto ad biz over the years…Great ideas never really go away, they just get recycled. It happens in other categories too. Greater minds than mine have also noticed this phenomenon. I’m not accusing anyone of plagiarizing, or retooling someone else’s work. Sometimes a good idea is sold to a client without anyone realizing how close it comes to something that has come before. I offer several examples for your review.

TOYOTA TUNDRA PULLS A SPACE SHUTTLE

This spot very effectively shows off the Tundra’s towing ability by lugging the space shuttle toyota-tundra-pulling-shuttle-fullEndeavor for a quarter-mile stretch of its journey of 12 miles from LAX to the California Science Center. It was quite a show of towing ability, made more so by the fact that it was pulling an American icon. Another American icon is the Boing 747. 221106-c-vwIn 2006, VW used a Touareg to pull a 747 down a runway. But both of them were beaten by a Chevy pickup truck that towed a 300,000 pound 747 down a runway in 1972. It went so well that the Dallas airport police were going to cite Chevy for pulling the plane faster than airport regulations. The moral here: To show how much you can tow, go out and find something really big and tow it.

FORD….GO FURTHER

Ford launched this new theme line last year. It was created to urge shoppers to check out Ford products, as well as to maximize their potentials. Matt Van Dyke, Ford’s Director of Global Communications said, “What we aim to do is inspire behavior. “Go Ford FurtherFurther” is more than an advertising tagline. We want to institutionalize it as part of our culture.” In a video put out by their Investor Relations people, Ford says,”Ford goes further to build great, environmentally sound products, a strong global business and a better, more humane world.” Admirable! Also admirable was the Isuzu advertising that broke in 1997, urging people to Go Farther. It became the ad slogan and company motto. As the 20th Century drew to a VX_00_Fullline_brochure_frontclose, Isuzu was urging millions to Go Farther. My friend Jean Halliday, in her Auto Adopolis Blog, points out the subtle difference between Go Further and Go Farther. The letter “A.” Just kidding. She really didn’t say that. The use of Further connotes more of a metaphorical distance. I was lucky enough to be the Director of Advertising Communications at Isuzu during many of the Go Farther years. We wanted people to Go Farther in everything they did.  The Army had used the “Be All You Can Be” line already. In Go Further, Ford wants people to, well, I guess Go Further. Isuzu wanted them to Go Farther.

ACURA – MADE FOR MANKIND

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 9.31.58 AMWell, Made for Mankind if you are what Acura calls a “doer,” like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or Google’s Sergey Brin…who are both Acura owners. They are made for a mankind that can afford $50,000 automobiles. An Acura executive described the campaign saying, “Our hope is we can take a human focus and put that into our advertising so we can push the world forward (further?). “Doers” are wealthy, but non-ostentatious,NissanHumanRace people who want to make a difference in the world via their work.” While Acura products are now “Made for Mankind,” 26 years ago Nissan declared that their products were “Built For The Human Race.” Nissan’s claim may ring a little truer as they offered everything from econo-boxes,, to iconic sports cars, to off-road trucks. At least the advertisers who develop very similar campaigns have the decency to wait until the other one has run its course. Please don’t think that I’m throwing stones…I can’t even afford a glass house. And, after all, I was the Account Man who was working on Chevy Nova when we launched our TV spot showing it tooling around Germany the same week as Ford launched a Granada spot using the same idea. For more on that fiasco, see my 9/21/2013 post “Adventures in Creativity.”

RX7But I digress. We had been tasked to come up with something that could “break through the clutter” for the RX-7 launch.  We finally all agreed on a direction. With only a little sense of hubris, we felt that the new RX-7 was the latest incarnation of what a classical sports car should be.  The heir to the legacy of such cars as the MG-TC, the Corvette, and the Datsun Z Car. We launched with a print ad which used an overprint of silver ink. “The car that you’ve been waiting for is waiting for you.” The car-buying public would go crazy knowing that we had the car that they’d been waiting for. They would be driven into paroxysms of ecstasy when they saw the companion launch TV spot. To add to the excitement of the spot, we told the viewer that it was actually filmed at a real raceway.

The launch was a huge success. Several people at FCB were given RX-7s as company cars. Except me. I inherited a navy blue Mazda Cosmo. No. It wasn’t named after Cosmo Topper, or Cosmo Kramer. It was one of those strange naming things that will be discussed in an upcoming post. But, it was bigger than my GLC, and drove like a rocket. All I knew was that I had moved up a notch in the free car sweepstakes.

Next: I Learn About International Trade

 

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

I Dodge A Big Bullet

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Crown Prince

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

Good Lord, I love this business.

Next:  Onion Soup

The Bloom Starts To Come Off Of The Rose

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Wilted rose

Don’t get me wrong, I had the world’s greatest job. Lunches at Chasen’s and at the Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hotel, dinners at Perino’s and The Brown Derby, Preferred “client” seating for tapings of The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, and the Tonight Show. Visiting relatives thought I was a god. When things got slow in the office, I’d go make dealer calls in San Diego, Palm Springs, or Las Vegas. Sometimes I would go into our small projection room and watch old Chevy commercials that were in our TV vault.  The commercials, stored on tiny 16mm reels, were classic examples of the days when you didn’t have to talk about your latest lease deal, your MPG numbers, or let the public know that they were seeing “professional drivers on closed roads.” There was Dinah Shore telling me to “See the USA in my Chevrolet” because “America’s the greatest land of all…Mmmwahh!” Pat Boone, the teen heart-throb, pitching Chevys on the Pat Boone Chevy-Showroom. Doug Mahoney was one of our West Coast TV production people. He came in while I was watching the classic 1964 “Castle Rock” Chevy commercial where the agency had perched a Chevy and a very terrified model on the top of Castle Rock, 1500 feet above the Utah desert floor. Doug worked on the commercial.  As the helicopter flies over the top of the rock,

we see a model, Shirley Rumsey, smiling at the camera. The dulcet tones of Joel Aldrich, Chevy’s long time announcer, telling us that “Chevy stands alone.” What you don’t see are the high winds blowing around at that altitude (notice Shirley’s hair and her dress), the harness that Shirley wore under her dress which was bolted to the frame of the car (preventing her from being swept over the side), or Doug, hidden in the trunk with a walkie-talkie, holding on to her legs through a hole in the back seat. Shooting finished late in the afternoon.  The helicopter pilot said that the winds had picked up and flying Shirley and Doug off would be too dangerous.  His suggestion was that the two of them spend the night in the car.  Doug was all for that.  Shirley said that she’d rather jump over the side than spend the night in the trunk of a car with Doug. They brought them down. In college, I did a parody of this spot for a mattress company as part of an advertising assignment. The professor gave me a C-, saying that it was “utterly unbelievable.”

But everything wasn’t food, fun and games. GM, and the other Detroit car makers, were becoming slightly annoyed with what they thought was a passing fad…Japanese cars. After a bumpy start with the Datsun Bluebird, and the Toyota Toyopet, these companies, along with Honda, offered products that became hotBluebird sellers in California. Chevy’s response was the Vega. Instead of building a small car from scratch, take a big car and shrink it, they thought.  To stem what was being called the Japanese invasion, Chevy started the California Marketing Project. They assigned a department head level manager to run it out of the Regional office in San Francisco. In addition to my regular weekly report, I was assigned the responsibility of writing weekly reports for the California Project. What kind of ads were they running? How heavy was the media spend? Did their engines, like the Vega’s, blow up? I even mentioned a blatantly xenophobic memo that was now circulating in the West Coast zone offices, written by a Zone Manger in the Cincinnati Region. He sent it to all of his dealers, decrying the fact that even though America had won WWII, the Japanese were again attacking the good old USA by “lobbing thousands of tons of steel onto our cities.” I received a call from someone in Detroit.  “Knock it off!” I was told.  “Your reports are too negative and they are upsetting a lot of people back here. Can’t you talk about anything positive?” I was going to mention that new “import fighter,” the Chevy Monza, that couldn’t be designed and engineered for California without having to choose between the Vega engine, and a monster 350 cubic inch car-fire(5.7 liter) V-8 that was designed to go into cars weighing a ton more.  I loved LA restaurants too much to bring that up. Also, GM was getting bad press in Southern California.  To comply with California’s tough emission laws, GM’s post combustion catalytic converters would heat from 750 to 1000 degrees. This made parking your car in any dry grass during the SoCal brush fire season somewhat problematic. The late Kenny Hahn, an LA County Supervisor at the time, invited the press to a demonstration. A GM car was parked, with the engine running, near some dry grass. Within minutes, the reporters got their stories.

I’d write reports talking about the great price/value story the Imports had. I’d be scolded and told that their value story was only due to an undervalued yen. I would say that the mope from Culver City who’s shopping for the best deal doesn’t really care about the yen/dollar exchange rate. Detroit made a lot of money on option packages. They also offered a fistful of trim levels.  The dealer was quite happy if you drove away in a new Impala Luxus Elite Brougham Tourismo SS Squire Spyder Custom Towne Car.  The Imports were offering an average of three trim levels, all fairly well-equipped. Usually: L, S, and LS. I was smart enough to realize that, like a Great Lakes ore freighter, GM couldn’t turn around on a dime. The models coming out the next year had been decided upon almost three years earlier.

The ad agencies handling the Imports weren’t slouches either. When Chevy or Ford would drag their heels on renewing a California sports buy, the Imports, with fewer layers of people who could say “No” at the client, would pick them up.  The same was true when Chevy got out of outdoor.  All the franchise freeway and airport signs they had were picked up by Datsun and Toyota.

See-no-evil-hear-no-evil-speak-no-evil-monkeys-14750406-1600-1200When clients came out to the West Coast, they were surrounded by people who didn’t want them to think that anything was wrong.  Not all Regional and Zone people were like this, but the few who weren’t were easily shouted down. The general feeling was that consumers would come to their senses and return to the True Faith. Even if it meant playing the “Buy American” card.

Next: “You’re Here To Do What?????”