Life Imitates Art!

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Softball

Advertising is stressful, competitive, daunting, draining, exciting, and stimulating. It also tests the limits of your endurance, and is always just a hair’s breadth away from erupting into violence. That’s why Foote, Cone & Belding/Honig had a co-ed softball team. We wanted to carry these life shortening characteristics into our evenings and weekends. We took it seriously.  This was not your fluffy “oops, let’s have a do-over” type of softball.  This was “take-no-prisoners” softball. We were L.A. advertising’s softball equivalent to Burt Reynolds’ convict team in The Longest Yard. Our 3rd baseman had been a star on the UCLA women’s softball team. Her throws to 1st base were measured in nano-seconds. Our left fielder carried, along with his glove, a six-pack of Pabst into left field with him every inning. Our 2nd baseman was able to schedule his psychotherapy sessions around our games andDrinking Team practices. And, like Pavlov’s dogs getting their treats for positive behaviors, we would retire to Sloan’s on Melrose to fuel our libidos. Alas, like the Tail O’the Cock, Sloan’s is long gone; given over to those who cater to glitterati and illiterati. 

The FCB team was a juggernaut of raging estrogen and testosterone. We would “juice” with our own proprietary concoction, testrogen,before each game. It was now 1980.  We were in the playoffs.  Our next opponent was William Esty, the agency for Datsun. We knew that no quarter would be given or sought. Nerves were on edge. We were all wound tighter than $5 Sears ukeleles. The game was close. The crowd was frenzied. then, it happened……. The Esty batter hit a slow grounder to 3rd base. Our star 3rd baseman charged it, and with one motion, picked it up with her hand and fired it to 1st base. Unfortunately, Patty Dryer, our crack 1st baseman, had her foot on the foul territory side of the bag, rather than on the 2nd base side. Because of this, her right leg 1st Baseand hip were directly over the base. The ball and the runner, who had his head down running as fast as he could to beat the throw, reached Patty at the same time. Because half of her body was across the base, the runner hit her like an Amtrak train hitting a small goat. She was out cold before she hit the ground.  The ball caromed off into right field.

Time was immediately called. Patty was carried off of the field and put underneath a shade tree. Her husband, a beefy ex-marine who ran his own collection agency, charged out of the stands and went after the Esty runner. It took five of us to drag Patty’s husband to the ground and explain that it was an accident.  The Esty runner was one of the nicest guys in LA advertising, and he didn’t mean it.  The collision was Patty’s fault. Cooler heads prevailed. For a while.

We were in the second to last inning, and had the game well in hand, when it became payback time.  Just like in Major League Baseball, “you hurt one of ours, we’ll hurt one of yours,” came into play. Except there was only one person on our team who felt this way…our left fielder who had already consumed six innings of Pabst six packs. He had advanced to 3rd base, when one of our folks hit a fly ball to left.  The Esty fielder caught it for the second out. Our guy on third base began to slowly walk down the line toward home plate, yelling at the left fielder to throw the ball to the catcher to tag him out. Oh no! He was going to take out the catcher! We all yelled at him to go back to third. The poor catcher, Home Platewho was only playing that position because he’d hurt his leg and couldn’t run, knew what was coming. He slowly moved to the side of home plate. The left fielder took the bait, threw the ball to the catcher, and our guy went into overdrive, going out of the base path to take out the catcher, who by now was fleeing toward the dugout. The collision set off car alarms for three square miles.

And just like the true sportsmen and sportswomen we all were, the benches emptied. Lots of pushing, shoving, groping, and cursing. We felt bad, because the Esty folks really hadn’t done anything wrong. But, true to our warrior code, BB fightwe had to watch each other’s backs. After a few minutes of jostling and bellowing, enough to satisfy the honor code, we all retired to our respective benches…except for our left fielder. He had been kicked out of the game.  This didn’t bother him too much, as he was able to make a quick beer run. We won the game and went on to win the West Coast Championship. After the game, we retired to Sloan’s to lie to each other about how great our advertising was. Patty was there, with her red badge of courage bandage over her eye. The Esty guy bought her drinks all night.

A few weeks later, the agency folks were in Las Vegas for the annual Mazda dealer show. This was going to be the first time the Mazda dealers would be seeing the new Mazda RX-7, the car that was to save the franchise. We were going to use a new, at that time, technology whereby the car would be revealed traveling through a tunnel of laser light out over the audience. This was going to be huge, the most expensive new model reveal in Mazda history. The night before the show saw us all trying to get everything ready. Top executives from Toyo Kogyo in Japan would be in attendance. It was now 1:00 AM and we noticed that the electricians rigging the lasers had stopped working and were sitting around smoking. I asked them why they had stopped working.  They gave me another life lesson.  “See that pipe up near the ceiling? We have to pass a cable over it.”   “So?” I asked. “Well, you see, we’re electricians, not plumbers.  That pipe carries water for the sprinkler system.  We can’t touch it. We’ve put out a call for a plumber.” Two agonizing hours later, a plumber walked in.  He was getting triple time as this was an “emergency” call. The plumber and an electrician rode a scissor-lift to the ceiling. The electrician handed the cable to the plumber, the plumber laid it over the pipe, and Violá, everything was back on schedule. The reveal went off without a hitch, and everyone was very happy. Including the plumber.

Laser Tunnel

Next: I Hang Out With Supermodels!

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

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

 

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!

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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?”

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