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, January 2, 2011

Hitting The Heights

Brooklyn Heights, that is. Account Exec Bob O'Connell, who worked on the Quaker State account, among others, came to me with a proposal to do something I'd never done before: teach a college class on advertising at St. Francis College.

The idea was, we would co-teach – me, the creative side of the business; Bob, the business side.

There was a little money in it, but my motivation for saying yes was the novelty of it.

Having moved to New York from the Albany area, from whence my theater-loving parents had often taken the family on the NY Central Railroad excursions for a weekend of star-studded entertainment, I was familiar and comfortable with Manhattan.

But like a lot of other transplants, the other boroughs were foreign territory, and I seldom, if ever, ventured off Manhattan, what we at K&E called “An island off the coast of America.”

It even took me a while to get accustomed to traveling underground from one end of the island to the other, although the speed and relative efficiency of it it eventually convinced me to use the subway system.

Bob and I would be traveling together for each class after work, and he was a born and bred New Yorker, so I would have an intrepid travel guide.

The first step was to create a curriculum. The two of us had to cover all the basics of the business in thirteen evening classes, and two times 13 is 26, and that suggested the alphabet, and so we created a format based on that, and called the course, “Advertising, A to Z.” I made a list for each class, beginning with A and B – The Art of Advertising and the Business of Advertising, and working through to the last class, with Y and Z – The Youthfulness and Zen of it all.

I found the requisite quizzes easy enough to construct, reviewing the basics of each double-subject class at regular intervals, and I remember giving the class of young, hopeful, working people an essay assignment, in which they were to imagine themselves as a “brand,” and create an ad campaign to sell that brand.

The experience, as any teacher would probably tell you, was just as rewarding for the teachers as for the students. Maybe more so, because before you can teach what you do for a living, even if it's instinctual, you have to examine it, break it into its basic parts, and understand it.

All in all, it was a valuable experience for me, and, I hope, for the eager hopefuls who got to hear, first-hand, what it was really like working on "Madison Avenue."

Next: more war stories

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