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, February 6, 2011

It Pays To Pay Attention

I see that an old cohort of mine, Herman Schnurr, is going to be sharing some insights on copywriting for an Albany Ad Club breakfast next month. I heartily recommend that if you have anything to do with the business of advertising and marketing, as a “creative,” a client or a student, that you attend.

The Malcom Gladwell “Outliers” theory, that if you spend 10,000 hours doing anything, you will be good at it, definitely applies here. I haven't added up Herman's hours, but I'll guarantee that they reach into six figures, if not seven.

I haven't consulted with him on his presentation, but here's one thing I'm sure he'll tell you: learn everything you can about your subject. Read old material, google it, talk to everyone in the company who'll give you the time. Immerse yourself and pay attention to everything, because you never know where your next idea is going to come from.

Here's one example from my own career – how I came up with an ad that has become one of my – and the client's – favorites.

The New York State Fair, in the center of the state, near Syracuse, has been an annual event for many years. One agency that Herman and I worked at in the 70's even developed the logo they're still using. But I had never been to The Fair until I worked for an account that underwrote it -- the leading public employee union in the state.

So I went, with a video crew, to cover their booth, their president paying a visit as he glad-handed all the rank and file that showed up at the Fair on CSEA Day. It was there that I discovered that the two people who go to these events for the State Department of Transportation in the costumes of the test crash dummies are members of CSEA.

There had to be an ad in that fact, and I was persistent with my boss and the head of the union's communications department about it. Finally, I hit upon the angle and we ran a statewide ad with their photos, in costume. The ad talked about all the work that all the members did, but used these two as the focal point, with the attention-getting headline, “265,000 Members, And Only Two Dummies.”

(Text provided upon request.)

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