Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A friend in Cleveland is a friend in need.

         Did I tell you about the time I quit my job in Chicago to work at my friend Tom's new ad agency in Ohio?

         Tom had been my creative director when I started in Detroit, and was my mentor. Tom had great faith in me and carefully watched what I was doing, giving me counsel on everything from how to face an assignment to how to face a dour account executive.

          One day Tom's friend Austin, who was a top rep for the Readers' Digest, got a call from Firestone. They asked if Austin wanted to start an advertising agency and pitch the Firestone account. Austin called Tom and off they went to Hudson, Ohio, half way between Firestone's headquarters in Akron and Cleveland, rented a mill for an office, and that was that.

          Hudson was quite an unusual town. As you remember from high school history, Ohio was originally the Western Reserve, a territory of Connecticut. Hudson was a New England town, everything white and wood with a big town square. A town where "Century homes" (a hundred years old) sold at a premium, and there were only two places for lunch. The place that served beer, and the place that didn't.

         I was at Foote Cone and Belding in Chicago when Tom asked me to join him. I had to go.

         When I got there, the marketing director at Firestone, Scotty, explained why they switched from J. Walter Thompson in New York to a newborn agency in Hudson. It seems that at every meeting at Firestone in Akron, the J. Walter crew started looking at their watches around 1:30. They didn't want to miss the 5 o'clock plane back to LaGuardia. No matter what was on the meeting agenda.

          So Scotty called Austin, Austin called Tom, and Tom called me.

          I had a good time at the agency; the people were talented and terrific, but being a Chicago boy, I couldn't live in Hudson. I needed anonymity and nearby chicken soup. So I lived in Shaker Heights, an hour up the interstate, which was a Cleveland suburb with a great deli.

         I got itchy to get more clients for the agency and went after new business. We quickly got one of the big banks in Cleveland, and the NBC-owned TV station there. But Tom and Austin got worried that I was changing their bucolic life too quickly, so I went back to creating commercials.

        That Harvey --- can't he ever leave well-enough alone?

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