Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Harvey, you're going to really like Marv Honig."

             That's what the Executive V.P. of our agency told me about the new writer at dinner that night. "Marv was the head of the humorous card division of American Greetings in Cleveland," he continued. "He's funny."

             Marv may have been working in Cleveland, but he was 100% New York. He moved to Cleveland for the job, and now he was joining our agency in Detroit. He traveled light. The first thing he told me was that he had a policy of not owning more than he could fit in the trunk of a Buick.

             We got to be the closest of friends. We had lunch every day, usually with four or five other regulars. I'd order a small sandwich or salad, and Marv had Yankee Pot Roast or sauerbraten or spaghetti and meatballs. He was a bachelor and refused to cook dinner for himself, so lunch was the big meal. We shared our views of the people in the ad agency, advertising, a woman he had noticed in accounts receivable, and the world.

             I took Marv under my wing and became his mentor. I told him everything my friend Dennis had taught me, about Doyle Dane Bernbach and the new kind of intelligent advertising being done. He joined me in clipping out every Doyle Dane ad and pinning it up on the wall.

             One day Marv came into my office and said he was worried. He said he had run into the president of our agency at the elevators and told him he had water on his chin. I asked Marv why he was worried. "He didn't have water on his chin," Marv said. "I just made it up." That was Marvin's need for response, in a nutshell.

             One day about a year later, he came into my office and sat down. He showed me a want-ad from Advertising Age. It said "Doyle Dane Bernbach is looking for a writer who goes right for the jugular". Marv was answering the ad --- with a greeting card he just created. On the front it said "I hear you're looking for a writer who goes right for the jugular." Open it up and there was a drawing of Count Dracula, and the line, "That's me."

            A week later Marv was back on my chair. "They sent me a plane ticket. I'm going tomorrow." That night I helped Marv put together his book of samples. They hired him on the spot. I was crushed.

            In New York, Marv was put to work on the Volkswagen account because, he said, "The older people don't want to work on it. The campaign's all set." For a while, he called me every Saturday and urged me to come join him. I never wanted to move there, but I saw him every time I flew to New York on business.

           This went on for years. Marv became Vice Chairman for Creative at Doyle Dane. Then on one visit he said "I want you to meet Bill Bernbach, before one of you dies." Mr. Bernbach, who had changed advertising forever, looked like a rosy-cheeked pediatrician. I told him how much I admired him, and he said, "I've heard about you, Harvey. How come Marv listens to you but he doesn't listen to me?"

           Bill Bernbach died a month later, and then, so did Marvin, from a rare disease. He left a wife and two daughters.

           And me.


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