Mad Man. Booze. Fags..
In his inimitable wisdom, Stephen has asked me to contribute to the on-going series “MAA blasts from the past.” As I have more of a past than just about anyone reading this, it should be a piece of piss.
Let’s go back to the very beginning. After arriving in New York on the Queen Mary in 1962, I managed to talk my way into a copywriting job at B&B, which in those days was situated at 666 Fifth Avenue. That inestimable building which is now the multi-billion-dollar millstone around Jared Kushner’s scrawny neck that will eventually drown him in the ever-expanding Trump swamp. However, enough of that.. Back to the ad biz. I will concentrate on the accounts I worked on during my four years at B&B.
Pall Mall cigarettes. Remember, this was before the majority of cigarettes had filter tips, so the big selling line for Pall Mall was… “You can light either end.” Why is that a big deal. Cos back in those days you could smoke everywhere and if you’ve ever been in the cinema and lit and inhaled the wrong end of a fag, you’ll know what I mean.
Heublein booze, which at that time was one of the biggest distillers in the US. Their best-known brand was Smirnoff vodka, but they had dozens of others, from high-end imports, like Harvey’s Bristol Cream to nasty, low-proof, canned cocktails aimed at teenagers who took coolers of the stuff to the beach so they could get their girlfriends shit faced and have their evil way with them. My favorite was the French aperitif, Byrrh. Here’s how we attempted to give it a more masculine image with “Byrrh on the Rocks.” Didn’t change the image, but it did win one of the first Cannes Lions for an American agency. Mind you, back in those days, there where only about four categories!
Charmin. Oh yes, Mr. Whipple. I hasten to add, I didn’t invent him, I inherited him. As I have written over the years, you would be instantly removed from the account if you referred to the product as toilet rolls. P&G insisted that they would be called “bathroom tissues.” There are many more cringeworthy details in “Confessions of a Mad Man.” On a final note… The most interesting fact about it is that Dick Wilson, who played the roll of Mr. Whipple for almost 35 years, was the most highly decorated Spitfire pilot in the Battle of Britain. Yeah, imagine that, Mr. Whipple squeezing Mr. Messerschmitt’s Nazi planes. Whodathunkit?
Maxwell House. Apart from the fact that I shot many spots with Mike Cimino, who went on to become an Oscar winning director with “The Deer Hunter” before bankrupting United Artists with “Heaven’s Gate.” Like P&G, General Foods had strict rules concerning their TV spots, including the plop-plop of the percolator. Ah yes, back in those days, we always had sixty seconds to perpetrate our awfulness on the unwashed masses.
(Can’t find that Maxwell House but here are two other Cimino efforts – United Airlines is priceless.)
(Here’s an old MH one for luck.)
Banking. Finally, something I can raise my head over the ever-suppurating morass of mediocrity destroying the current ad scene. Wow, do I have a way with words, or what? Unlike current bank advertising, pimping credit cards with outrageous interest rates. This Chemical Bank of New York campaign was all about appealing to an increasingly sophisticated target group. Namely women. Remember, this was in !964. Look at the current shitpile of advertising aimed at the female audience and asked yourself why we are going backwards?
What the fuck do I know? Time for a drink.