Thriller writer Clinton Smith spent much of his life dreaming up ad campaigns for multinational agencies. He lived through the great days and even remembers some of them. A sample:
One morning, when I passed the office of John X, a clever and savvy copywriter, I found him standing on top of his desk.
Standing on his desk looking down at his chair.
In those days, all kinds of things happened in agencies. People rode Harleys through the corridors or punched their fists through the partitions. They tripped people up with their remote controlled model cars, hung newbies out the windows by their ankles, rooted each other on car bonnets in the carpark, filled rooms full of black balloons...
So to notice someone standing on his desk was comparatively normal.
I don't think I asked him directly what ailed him but I was curious.
Then someone filled me in.
The guy was working on proposition for a cigarette campaign. I'll try to unpack that for you.
This particular agency had a department that developed selling propositions. It's job was to assemble the bare bones of a selling statement or six, research the hell out of them, then present the winner to the creative department.
For instance, the winning proposition, authenticated by scores of well-compensated housewives selected from all three socio-economic groups (they love that kind of language) might be 'OMO has more effective bleaching agents'. The creative department would then translate this into 'OMO has blue beads of bleach'. Of course, that wouldn't be the entire
execution, or even the slogan, but it might just kick off a TV campaign.
So this guy was working on a coffin-nail brand. (We were allowed to in those days.) And the proposition they'd given him was: 'The man who smokes Brand X is taller than anyone else in the room.'
As my fellow creative could recognise insanity when he saw it, he knew that the Proposition Department had vanished up it's collective arse. So, after standing on his desk for a couple of days, he told them to shove their notion up there as well - and went on to a distinguished career in several less constipated agencies.
Famous in our own lunchtimes
Those were the practically free lunch days because expense accounts were claimable. So you'd wipe yourself out with the most expensive lunch and not look in on the office after that - because, by then, you were staggering drunk.
Of course you'd drive home (no breath tests) at considerable speed, barely able to discern the steering wheel, let alone the traffic around you. We lost several Account Executives to fatal car accidents. One moment someone was there - young, fit and full of life and hope. The next day he didn't come in and you learned that he'd gone under the back of a semi-trailer, or rolled his Merc on a business junta in Malaysia.
Write yourself a trip!
And, on the weekend off, we took a meandering trip around the Amalfi Coast.
I remember that trip. The director - a wild man - and the client (who came along for the fun) decided that we had to go to Positano. So we assembled ready to roll. I packed an overnight bag containing two pairs of underpants, two handkerchiefs, toothbrush et al. The client turned up with nothing - just a toothbrush stuck in his top pocket. As for the director - fazed from a night with some girl he'd found (He said he'd drunk her pretty) - he had what he stood up in.
The client said to him, 'Aren't you taking your toothbrush?'
The director said, 'F*%-knell! You can buy a toothbrush anywhere!'