Friday, June 8, 2012

Charity begins with salad.

         On my very first real job with an ad agency in Chicago, there was a call to help solve a serious problem: starvation.

         The people in Bafra were starving and all the ad agencies got together to ask their clients for contributions of their products. One of our clients was Wish-Bone salad dressing. We couldn't believe it when we heard back that Wish-Bone was contributing 100 cases of Wish-Bone Low Calorie Dressing.
I don't know what the Corina Cigar people contributed.

         Working pro-bono for charities and causes has always been a big part of advertising agency life. Over the years I did magazine campaigns for the Community Chest using Peanuts characters. Charles Schulz even said I did a good job. I've also headed up the national United Way advertising campaign. We got Saul Bass to do their logo (the hand holding a family and topped with a rainbow) as well as all the ads and commercials.

         I got good at writing theme-lines for causes. For the A.R.C., I wrote "When you give help, you give hope" --- with a dove flying off the logo. For the United Way, "Thanks to you, it's working". It was the first time a cause had thanked people in advance. For the President's National Center for Voluntary Action, I wrote "If you want a better country, raise your hand".

        Doing this kind of work keeps everybody fresh. Agencies love it because it looks good on their client list. The creative people love it because it gives them something new to think about besides Charmin tissues or Lean Cuisine.

        My most enjoyable project was working with John Delorean, the car maven. He was head of Chevrolet at the time, and had learned about the Police Athletic League in New York and wanted to re-create it in Detroit. PAL was a great organization where the police, on their own, bought sports equipment for poor kids and helped them learn baseball and the rest. I went to New York with my friend Tom Murray to learn more.

        We stayed at the Sutton Place Hotel, on Central Park South. After a good breakfast, we'd get in a cab to take us to the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. But the cab wouldn't go farther. We had to switch to a jitney cab (they're usually purple) to get to our destination, to see how PAL really worked. After two days, we knew. When we returned I wrote four of the most emotional ads of my career.

         Sometimes the things you get to sell are worth more than dollars.




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