Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Everything was great till Cinderella.

     The president of Cadillac's and Pontiac's ad agency liked me. Up to a point. We couldn't really get close  because he owned an El Dorado and I drove a Tempest convertible. The only place those two met were in the agency's lobby.

       I liked him because he knew the purpose of advertising. He even wrote a book about it, and gave copies to all of us  employees. I was impressed, never realizing that Bill Bernbach and Leo Burnett, two truly monumental figures in advertising, never had time to write a book. They were busy writing ads.

       In addition to running the Cadillac account at the agency, the president also supervised the Hush Puppies account. Hush Puppies are the soft, brushed pigskin shoes that became a big hit with artists in Greenwich Village. Today Hush Puppies would heavily use social media to get the word out. At the time, television could do the job the best.

      My art-diector partner Marty and I were given this challenge. The agency would give us carte blanche to do an "out of the box" commercial for Hush Puppies. The agency would pay for it to be produced before the client even heard about it. If the client liked it, it would go on the air, and Marty and I could do another one the same way. If the client didn't like it, the deal would be over.

      We jumped at the challenge. The first commercial we did was called "Barefoot", about all the ways our feet help us and why, "whether you have men's feet or women's feet", they deserve Hush Puppies. I wrote it on a yellow pad on the floor of my bedroom, and Marty did the storyboard the next day. We produced it, the client loved it, it went on the air and won awards.

      Then we did another commercial the client loved, and it won awards, too.

       The third commercial we created was about a spoiled American "princess" from Brooklyn. It was the Cinderella story about the glass slipper found after the ball. "It's not mine, Mr. Leotards-from-the-Prince; I only wear Hush Puppies!" she said.  The jig was up. So was the gig. The client didn't understand it, didn't want it on the air, and probably wanted it out of his office. Marty and I were in shock, and the agency lost all the production costs.

       Marty and I went on to other things, spending months getting new clients for the New York branch of the agency. But there was one thing I learned for certain. In advertising, it doesn't take long to turn back into a pumpkin.


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