GIVE THE GIFT OF MUSIC
The first ad that said ‘Give the Gift’ but is now so overdone in today’s advertising. I created the line for a Columbia Records ad that featured 4 new classical music albums. It ran in Hi-Fi Stereo Review in the early 1970’s. When I came up with it I debated whether it was too ‘intellectual.’, but decided to go with it since classical music buffs were the target audience. After it ran, Columbia records began to use the line on its album sleeves, and it soon became a record industry standard. Later in life, I realized that it may have been inspired by my Irish roots (my mother was from Ireland). The Irish often say, about someone who can hold a good conversation, “He’s got the gift of gab.”
THE WORLD’S MOST EXCITING TWO MINUTES
I left CBS Records and went to work for Lou Dorfsman, at CBS Broadcast. I guess, you could call it a promotion of sorts. Lou was world famous as a designer and art director. One of my assignments was to create a 100th anniversary program ad for the Kentucky Derby. CBS Broadcast wanted to bring home the fact that they had been broadcasting the Kentucky Derby for 27 years in a row. I didn’t have much time to do it but knew I wanted to find another way to say Kentucky Derby or else the ad would be boring. Well into the night, tired from thinking too much, I picked up a World Almanac, and turned to the fact page about the Kentucky Derby. Suddenly, one thing struck me: most of the races were just past the two-minute mark. At that point I wrote down, “For 27 years in a row we’ve been showing people the world’s most exciting two minutes.” which became the CBS Broadcast ad for the 100th anniversary program of the Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Derby, obviously inspired by my new way to describe the race, changed ‘exciting’ to ‘greatest’ and their official theme line became The World’s Greatest Two Minutes.
BE ALL YOU CAN BE
Oddly, I was the only creative working on the Army account who had actually been in the Army; it was not a requirement to work on the account. Around late 1979, or early 1980, one of the Army’s rising stars, Max Thurman, took over recruitment command, and visited the agency. He spoke to us in the Ayer auditorium and told us what the Army would be in the future, and at the same time chewed out the agency for not doing a good enough job. Shortly after, the creative department was asked to come up with a new theme line. The ‘brief’ was to somehow emphasize how modern the Army was becoming ; it needed brighter, smarter soldiers to operate the new technology. Actually, the kind of recruit the Air Force was getting, only the Army needed this kind of recruit in larger
numbers. I went back to my tiny windowless office and bounced lines around my head for about a week. On my wall was a School of Visual Arts poster that said ‘To be good is not enough when you dream of being great.’ I constantly kept looking at it and thought about the finest man I had ever met, my former Sergeant Major, and of other soldiers I had met who had made something of their lives in the Army although they had started with very little. The line just popped into my head. The first time I presented it it was turned down, but when the Creative Director, Lou DiJoseph, reviewed the work in private he decided Be All You Can Be was what the Army needed and sold the campaign. Without Lou the line would have died.
THE WORDS WE LIVE BY
The agency I was working for at the time, Scali, McCabe, Sloves, had been chosen by the Ad Council to create a campaign for the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. Although the agency wouldn’t make any money on the campaign, it was considered a very prestigious account to work on. Early proposals by the agency to Warren Burger the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court did not sit well with him, I understand, and he was ready to tell the Ad Council to get another agency. I was called in at the last minute, to
work with Bob Needleman the Art Director assigned to the campaign (in advertising, the art director and copywriter work as a team to create ads). We were way behind, and I requested a meeting with Burger’s constitutional lawyer. He and the rest of Burger’s team expected to see ads when I went to Washington, but he was incredibly helpful, and
Bob and I battered out a bunch of ads in no time, but we didn’t have a theme line as yet. Finally, one day I showed Bob the line, and he said it was great, and fought for it
internally. Later, the Miami Herald, in their May 17, 1987 magazine section went into great detail how I came up with the line. Unfortunately, the advertising industry itself was not that impressed when the campaign broke. It seems Warren Burger, while playing golf with the CEO or Chairman of Xerox, told him about the upcoming
campaign. The Xerox executive liked the line so much he asked Burger if he could use the line in his advertising, and, unfortunately, Burger said yes, even though we had not
finished shooting our commercials. Xerox came out with a TV spot about the Constitution using ‘The Words We Live By” before our campaign broke making our original theme line look like we had copied it from Xerox. However, today when I see phrases like Bagels To Live By it feels like my line had more of an influence that I would have originally thought.
BUILT FOR THE WAY YOU LIVE
I was freelancing at this time, when I got a call from an agency in White Plains asking me if I would be interested in working on the Tri-State Ford dealers account. I didn’t
realize at the time how big the account was, or that they shared it with J. Walter Thompson. I asked a former Art Director from Scali, McCabe, Sloves, to work with me on the advertising. On our final presentation, expecting to just present our creative to the agency principal, two executives from J. Walter Thompson, Detroit, appeared at the meeting as well. Something didn’t ring right, but I went ahead with the presentation. Near the end of it, although we had already presented two campaigns that were basically
approved in earlier stages, I presented the line Built For The Way You Live, and said I thought a campaign, and jingle could be made out of it. Nobody responded. Everyone at the meeting said they loved the two campaigns we presented but could they have a copy of everything I presented anyway. Later, I was told all the work had been turned down by whomever, and that was that. On March 17, of that year I turned on the television to watch the St. Patrick’s Day parade which always has a lot of Ford ads, (Henry Ford’s parents were from Ireland) and heard “Built For The Way You Live”, being sung as a jingle. In the next couple of years hundreds of millions of dollars was spent on TV spots featuring Built For The Way You Live, being sung, but the three executives I presented it to denied I had every presented Built For The Way You Live to them. I wrote Ford and J.Walter Thompson to no avail and was ready to file a copyright infringement case in District Court when a serious personal matter preempted my focus for the next couple of years. The world is full of people who take credit for other people’s work, Built For The Way You Live is one of them.