How I Got to Madison Avenue. And beyond.

As with life, this blog is developing and changing. It began with a lot of stories that occurred on my career path from Albany to Madison Avenue and back.

There were some similarities to the AMC series "Mad Men," and then I went even farther back in time with a somewhat fictionalized version of growing up in Troy's Little Italy.

And now, a new development. As my free lance advertising and marketing career winds down, I'm becoming more interested in the theatre arts that my father and his 3 brothers helped instill in me as I grew up.

As a result, I've volunteered to help promote the Theatre Institute at Sage, and now, to continue a long-interrupted desire to be behind the proscenium, I've joined the newly formed Troy Civic Theatre, and was actually fortunate enough to appear in their first production.

So, I hope you'll enjoy the new stories that will develop from this latest turn.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Two things happened at the end of summer, 1982.

One, Kenyon & Eckhardt made me very, very elated by naming me a Vice President, basically because I dropped one letter from the common phrase, Industrial Revolution, for the Government of Puerto Rico.

And two, Jane made me very, very depressed, by dropping me as soon as our romantic summer on Fire Island was over. Today's stories: lots of emotion from a professional promotion and a personal demotion.


Kenyon & Eckhardt had two of the three parts of the Puerto Rican Government's marketing campaign in the 50 states. The Rums of Puerto Rico consumer account and the business-to-business Industrial Development account were ours. Tourism was handled by another agency.

Rums of Puerto Rico had a long-running campaign that satisfied everyone. But the Industrial Development advertising could have been better.

Because they had hired me from my one and only job outside the advertising field -- my one year stint as Communications Director for New York's Year of the Child Commission -- the K&E creative directors thought my government background suited me for this task.

I read everything they gave me about the business incentives for building American factories in Puerto Rico, and there are many, including an educated work force, tax incentives and the ability to label products made there as “Made in the U.S.”

Then, to assure myself that I really comprehended the whole picture, I wrote a long series of questions and answers. It started with a short history lesson and progressed to the business advantages of today. I passed it around to my superiors, and they thought it would make a great ad. All it needed was a headline and a theme.

I thought, “That was easy. Maybe a headline and theme will be, too.” In retrospect, it seems easy. It looks easy, too. But it really took a lot of thought to get to the kernel.

Part of the theme -- which also served as the headline -- was already in the client's name -- Industrial. And what common phrase is it in?

Industrial Revolution, of course. I always like to start with the obvious.

I typed it. I stared at it. I blocked out the R. And I had it.

The Industrial Evolution of Puerto Rico.

It said that here was a tropical island without a revolution in its history, and with a progressive business atmosphere. It fit what I had written, the art director put the line at the top and the bottom of the ad, and it ran on the op-ed page in the New York Times.

When Steve Frankfurt, our Worldwide Creative Director saw it, he claimed it was the best ad the agency had turned out in years, and made me a Vice President. Which meant a nice raise and an additional week's vacation every year.

Later, the theme was used as the headline for a special advertising section in Time Magazine, the front of which is above.


He was a shrink with an apartment on Central Park West. He was Jane's therapist's brother. In spite of all that, I started therapy with him, to help me deal with the unexpected loss of the continuation of what Jane saw as a summer romance.

As I settled in to the comfortably worn chair in the darkened, den-like room, the tweedy, fifty-ish shrink explained his method with a well-rehearsed smile. I imagined him practicing the semi-smirk every morning while shaving. Since I didn't shave, and only trimmed my beard from time to time, I could only imagine how much practice time he could devote to his posturing.

“Frank,” he said in his warmest manner, “this isn't going to be like a typical therapist/client relationship. No, we're going to become like friends. I'll be making notes in this book, and soon we'll understand each other and be able to communicate like two guys who have known each other a long time.” Thinking back, I now remember it as a well-rehearsed speech.

Whatever. It sounded good to me, and I looked at his buddy approach as an opportunity to haggle about his fee, which I did, and actually got him to reduce it, although not by much.

For the first few weeks, it went pretty well. One of the shrink's specialities was father-son relationships, and he actually had some good advice and an insight or two into how the competition often keeps the son from earning more than the father. Since my father was a factory worker, then a low-level manager, I had faced that problem early in my work life, understood the idea, and even succumbed to it at one low point. But now I was a VP of a major ad agency, and I had already exceeded my father's best salary. Still, it was helpful to know that it was a common occurrence.

The problem came just before my buddy the therapist was to leave for a two-week vacation. At the session just before his absence, I showed up at the usual hour, shortly after work, having enjoyed a brisk walk from the Pan Am Building, uptown and through Central Park to his office.

As I settled in, I picked up where we had left off at the previous session, and when I finally took a breath, he said, without looking up,

“Well, Arthur, you know---”

I stopped him right there.

“What did you call me?,” I demanded.

He looked up. He looked down. He looked sheepish.

Stuttering and stammering some excuse about having another patient with similar issues, he went on with the rest of the session, although not too comfortably.

As I said, he was about to leave for a vacation, and that gave me plenty of time to think about the incident. When he returned, I showed up for my next scheduled session, sat down, and for the first time, he asked,

“Where shall we start today, Frank?” It seemed to me that he emphasized the “Frank” a little too much.

It was the perfect opening.

“We'll start by talking about why I'm firing you.”

He looked shocked. Shocked, but not surprised. He spent some of the time I was paying for trying to hook me back in with unresolved issues, but I wasn't buying it. Not after this session, anyway.

I carefully explained that I had come to him to deal with rejection. He, claiming we were going to become like buddies, confused me with another patient. I was dealing with his rejection of me in a very rational way: I was firing him. End of story.

Postscript: Jane and I re-established our friendship, and although intermittent, we share stories and appreciation for each other. And she never, never calls me Arthur.

Next: We'll always have Paris, wrong.

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