tip from adgrunt Laters - One man's view from 40 years in the trenches of the advertising wars.
A memoir is made of memories, and in these memories I've changed only a very, very few actual names, dates, and places. And those only for reasons best considered as prudent.
All the other memories are exactly as they were. Or at least as they seemed to me. If some of them seem unpleasant or less then flattering...? Well, that's the way I remember them.
Nevertheless, it was a great ride, gang. Forty years in the advertising business. Writing ads and commercials for everything from Coca-Cola to the local supermarket.
This is the story of the last year. The one that almost killed me.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 1988
I didn't even see it coming.
Maybe I was stupid or naive, but even almost forty years in the advertising business didn't alert me to what was happening. Stupid? Naive? Probably both. Or maybe I was just too busy doing my job to see what my job was doing to me.
Because all of a sudden one day it hit me like a ton of old television commercials. I was out of the loop. Heading for a train wreck. And if there was any light at the end of the tunnel, it was probably the train.
You're out of the loop, pal. I thought, over and over again. Out of the loop. Period, end of report.
And the cheapest shot of all? It happened on my birthday. On my birthday, for crying out loud. My desk calendar still said "Monday, September 5." And Louise had wished me a "Happy Birthday" just a few hours ago. Pretty important birthday, too. Sixty-four years old and just a year to go. In a business that usually kills off its kids before they hit forty. One more year until I'd fool them all and hit sixty-five. And could retire. Maybe even start writing The Great American Novel.
My business card still said "Wallace J. Gordon, Associate Creative Director/Copy Chief, Leslie Advertising, Greenville, South Carolina." That meant I had a job with a good advertising agency. Not quite up to the best New York or Chicago agencies, but a lot better than most. And I was making a decent salary, with both a pension plan and a profit-sharing plan. Just the kind of deal you want when you?re a year away from sixty-five. Not enough for a life of luxury, but more than enough to keep the worry wolves at bay in the middle of the night.
Only problem: to collect, I still have to be with the agency when I hit sixty-five. A year from now. And I don't think I'm going to make it.
A year can be a lifetime when you're out of the loop. And birthday or Copy Chief, I was definitely out of the loop. Suddenly, inexplicably, but out. Memos that used to be addressed to me were being addressed to someone else. Meetings that used to happen in my office were involving everybody but me. Everybody but me. Son of a bitch. How did this happen? Where did the truck come from? What was going on?
I was still sitting there, dumbfounded at what I'd suddenly realized, when the anger struck. Anger? Rage is more like it. The bastards! What the hell were they doing to me? And why? All I'd done for almost five years was give them everything I had professionally. The same things that had carried me successfully though long stints at top agencies in Chicago, New York and Minneapolis, the three top hot buttons for agency creative work. The same things that had been part of several successful new business pitches, landing new clients billing eight or nine million dollars through the agency.
And all of a sudden I'm no good? Over the hill? Out of the loop?
© 2001 by Wallace J. Gordon. All rights reserved.