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George Rents A Suit
By Erwin Ephron

I've tried to capture what it was like to work at a small agency in the 1960'S where creative was king, media did dishes and a suit meant the client.

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Memories lead to biography, but only if writer and reader are patient. I've tried to capture what it was like to work at a small agency in the 1960'S where creative was king, media did dishes and a suit meant the client. Which reminds me. . .

It's early morning in 1966 at the Papert Koenig Lois agency (early was 10 AM). The agency was a buzz. I remember the rumor word-for-word. "Something's going on ... George is in early and he's rented a suit." That early morning suit - probably worn for the Ad Age photo - was the first indication that George Lois was leaving to start a new agency, Lois Holland Calloway.

Four Too Many

When you are Media at an agency run by copywriters and art directors, to be a player you quickly learn the covert use of numbers. For example, the time the agency ran afoul of one of the client's Official Guidelines.

This major PKL client, heavy in television, had an elaborate system for estimating how many commercials a brand needs to keep its message fresh. For our brand the system said four. Since PKL's major problem was getting any commercial approved, four was four too many.

In desperation, Media was called to the rescue. Our assignment was to challenge and defeat the company's hated "commercial pool policy". Fortunately this turned out to be a simple task.

The client's formula was based on the frequency delivered to the heaviest viewing 20% of TV households. This produced a gross overestimate of commercial exposure.

The same calculation using average exposure of the brand's Women 25 to 54 target reduced the number to a more manageable two commercials. To the cheers of PKL management, I tossed this brick over the wall.

No word for close to a month. Then a terse memo (there were no emails then) reading, "Thank you for the insightful analysis. The Commercial Pool Policy calculation stands. For its brands, PKL is authorized to multiply the resulting number by 0.5. "

They Loved Us In New York

Even at close quarters it took a while for creative people to appreciate media people. At Carl Ally, my second creative agency, I remember a top Art Director stopping by my office to discuss a media plan. I was suspicious. His visiting media was like Pope Benedict eating at Wendy's. But I thought, don't be narrow. Perhaps there is some valuable media insight growing out of the creative.

My presentation of the media plan was immediately interrupted by a question. "TV is running in New York, right?" Yes, I said. "Good. Make sure it's a heavy schedule, will you. I want all my friends see it."

We've Had It Up To Here

Copywriters were more fun. They had a wicked sense of humor. I remember the birth of Scali McCabe Sloves. Ed McCabe and Marvin Sloves were from Ally. Marvin knew me and wanted me to join them, but I was happy with Carl. I kept it in the family by introducing them to my cousin Michael, who prospered there.

Ed McCabe was a brilliant copywriter, but difficult and sensitive about not being very tall. Ally legend -- passed-on by another copywriter -- Dick Raboy -- has it that when McCabe had thoroughly exasperated his co-workers, which he did frequently, there was a formal protest. They would stand, bend their hand at the wrist, place it below the hip as if measuring the three foot distance to the floor, and shout "Ed, we've had it up to here with you."

Follow That Cab

In the 1960's almost all client contact went through account people. But at PKL and Ally, the creative team presented their own work. It was like having Verdi introduce Rigoletto.  Face-to-face worked well when the creative team was articulate and stoic.  But sometimes they unraveled.

After an especially difficult meeting with the advertising director of Travelers Insurance, who was trampled by his management and passed it on, I remember gentle Bill McCollum, the dazed copywriter, limping out of the client meeting in Hartford, hailing a cab and whispering to the driver "New York, please."

I think we billed the client.

Erwin Ephron is an authority on advertising and the father of "recency planning." His fresh ideas about how ads work today have changed the way campaigns are planned throughout the world. Erwin

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