Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Seven Books Every Advertising Executive Should Read

If you want to understand what the Mad Man era was really about and where the current business came from, I thought I would publish a list of my favorite books about the business and the people in it.  All were originally published (although most have been reprinted) prior to 1990, except the Mary Wells book, which is a great look back. Some of these are kind of a how to and others are philosophy, but all of them are interesting, fun and informative.

All of them are still available today.

            Confessions of An Advertising Man by David Ogilvy - Atheneum, 1963
            Long before he wrote Ogilvy on Advertising (1983), which is more of a
            personal philosophy on what works and what does not, David Ogilvy wrote
            this seminal book which is still required reading in many advertising

            From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor - Jerry Della
            Femina, Simon & Schuster, 1970
            Loaded with sometimes riotous anecdotes about the comings and going
of advertising people. He names names.  It remains one of the funniest
books on the business.  It is loaded with real mad men stories.

A Big Life (In Advertising), Mary Wells Lawrence - Simon & Schuster, 2002
Mary Wells is a pioneer of our business.  She wrote some of the greatest
(and most loved) campaigns of the 1960’s and was one of the first women
to start an agency, Wells, Rich, Greene.  She was also the first CEO of a New York Stock Exchange company.  Among the stories in the book are how she got Braniff Airlines to paint their planes in pastel colors and then married the airline’s chairman.

Reality in Advertising, Rosser Reeves - Knopf, 1961
Rosser Reeves was the master of the hard-sell and the creator of the USP
(Unique Selling Proposition).  He was the co-founder of Ted Bates & Company (now a part of WPP.  Although this book is somewhat dated and his philosophy went out of favor, but many of his tenets remain true today. It is an interesting read.

Bill Bernbach’s Book: A History Of The Advertising That Changed The History Of Adverising by Bob Levenson and Evelyn Bernbach – Villard Books, 1987
Every advertising person knows or should know Bill Bernbach.  He was a genius. 
His agency produced many of the greatest works in the history of the business.  While lots of examples of his work are in this book (every advertising person, in my opinion, should be familiar with them), it also tells his story as well as telling anecdotes about him and his quips to clients.

The Hidden Persuaders - Vance Packard, Random House, 1957
While somewhat dated, this book was on the best seller list for months and is still read today.  Vance Packard wrote about research, focus groups and subliminal advertising long before any of these techniques were in common usage.  At the time it was published, it was a revelation.  Needless to say, it was highly controversial and scared the hell out of many people who consequently felt that advertising was a “dirty” profession.

Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind - by Al Reis and Jack Trout, McGraw Hill, 1980
The developed the concept of positioning, but surprisingly, their advertising agency, Trout & Reis, was never highly successful. It eventually became a consultancy.  However, they were the first to explain the concept of positioning to a skeptical industry; their thinking is still in effect today.

I am sure that some of you may have other books to add to this list.  I would love to hear from you..


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Right And Wrong Way To Start A Partnership

Many advertising people think about starting their own company.  There is a right way and a wrong way.  To illustrate, I would like to share a story.

Two well-known creative people approached me to find them an account person to be their partner.  Both had been working together at an agency which was well known and successful.  It was a west coast agency with a New York office.  The management of the west coast had decided to close the office.  The issue was that they were able to take some accounts (but lose others) and needed someone to run the accounts and the business.

They felt that the income generated by the business that was staying would not be enough for them to continue their lifestyle. The fees generated by those accounts were enough to give them each a six figure income. The account partner they were looking for would be tasked with finding, pitching and generating new accounts.  They would then share that new income, while keeping the income they already had for themselves. 


In effect, what they were asking a new partner to do was to sacrifice this or her own income wile supplementing theirs.

Unfortunately, I hear that story in one form or another, all the time.  Creative people have the ability to generate income through freelance. Most freelance activity can be handled during off hours (if the creative people are otherwise employed) or on the weekend. Account people rarely have that opportunity and on the rare occasions when they get a freelance assignment, the account manager must work full time.  

In order for the partnership to be successful and the business to prosper, the parties involved have to be totally committed both to each other and to the business.  Whatever income comes in has to be drawn equally, even if that income is freelance for the creative – the account partner is enabling them to have the opportunity to start a business. That enablement is worth money, or should be, to the creatives.

Years ago, when I had my agency, this is the arrangement I had with my partners.  It was fair to them and fair to me.  In the early days when the business had almost no income, they freelanced and gave me a third of what they generated.  As the business grew, we all agreed to draw money equally. If someone wanted a hundred dollars, for whatever reason, than the other two took a hundred dollars each. 

By doing so, it avoided anger and resentment and kept the partnership whole.  And more than that, it kept us all friendly and financially content.  At times the equal draw principal did cause some problems – especially when the partner with kids in private schools had to come up with tuition.  But we managed to work through it.

I told this story recently to a very good friend of mine, an account person, who had started an agency with two creative partners.  He came to me because he was going through his savings rapidly.   His cohorts were freelancing and had income.  My comment was that, if they were really committed to building a business, hey had to find a way to share all the available income during the start-up period.
When he told me that they were unwilling to share their freelance, I had to tell him that they were not truly committed to the business or the partnership.  In a good partnership, the partners are always equal and draw equally.

It is almost always the creative people who generate the product for an ad agency.  It is always the account person who runs the business, manages the clients and generally enables the creatives to do their thing.  That is worth equal pay.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Women, Advertising And Maternity Leave

A few weeks ago Adweek ran an important article about the abuses that women endure when they are pregnant or on maternity leave I was appalled the findings as reported by Adweek and I thought the issue deserves commentary.  

Apparently there are very few enlightened ad agencies which offer progressive policies and practices to women who go out on maternity leave.  Unfortunately, they appear to be few and far between.  Any employee who goes on maternity (or paternity) leave should be guaranteed job security, their seniority and an easy return to the same or similar job.  However, this is apparently a practice followed by very few ad agencies.  As a recruiter, my experience with most of the major ad agencies is that they mostly assign or hire people to cover jobs temporarily while a person is out.  However, apparently, I am wrong.  It is shocking.

The idea that companies force women to work right up to their due date,  forcing women to work from home, take away their seniority and fail to keep promises is insane.  

The fear of clients and the need to service them, even if irrational, drives all too many companies and ad agencies, even if those clients themselves have enlightened policies. But there is no excuse for a company to break promises or treat women poorly when they have babies.
We all realize that a leave of absence can cause problems and disruption, but an employer has a six or seven month minimum notice to prepare.  There is no reason for lack of planning which leads to broken promises.

During the past several decades, women have begun to dominate the business.  And while there my have been a glass ceiling, it is beginning to crumble.  Consequently, t is essential that ad agencies address this problem.

Frankly, despite the hundreds of women I have spoken to, I had no idea that these things happened.  Women actually don’t seem talk much about it.  .

I would love to hear your comments and experiences.  This is an important subject and deserves discussion.
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