Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The art director who loved words.

            My best friend in Detroit for years was Marty Lieberman. He was not only a good art director; he was the answer to a copywriter's prayers. He believed in the power of copy.

            I first met Marty when I was approached to leave Chevrolet's agency and join the agency that worked for both Pontiac and Cadillac, as well as other clients. The agency was located in Bloomfield Hills, the beautiful suburb of rolling hills and lakes and the famous Cranbrook school of art and architecture.

           To make things interesting, the agency had set up a "creative think tank" to work on all of the agency's clients in Bloomfield Hills, New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, and London. Marty was the art director; they wanted me to handle the copy. We would both be Senior V.P.s.

           The think tank was called Group Eleven. It was across the street from the agency in a lovely townhouse. Two bedroom, two baths, a fireplace in the living room and ping-pong in the basement.

           I wasn't really ready to make a change, but it was Marty who convinced me. The Saturday after my first interview, Marty roared up to my house in his British Racing Green GTO, and talked me into it. I can't remember how, but going out of his way to make me comfortable did the trick. Two weeks later I moved from a beautiful contemporary office to a bedroom in the 'burbs.

          Marty showed me the ropes. Lunch at nearby watering holes, afternoons at the Bloomfield Open Hunt Club, shopping trips to nearby Birmingham --- but mainly long days making ads.

          He always encouraged me to write down everything I thought of, which got me into the habit of creating ads and commercials at home after supper. The next morning, Marty and I would go over my scribblings, and he would pick out the ones he loved most. Then he and his assistant, Bert, would divide up the layouts to be done while I went to my bedroom to write the presentation.

          When Marty couldn't think of a visual, he would say something like, "This headline is so good, it doesn't need a picture. Let's just make it big."

          Life in the townhouse was good. We were joined by Elaine Jackowski, a research supervisor from Doyle Dane Bernbach in New York, when her husband was transferred to Detroit. She was amazing, always providing Marty and me with insights and answers. And fruit for us to snack on.

          I sometimes think I did my best work with Marty. He loved what I did, and that made me do better.

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