I think it was Jerry Della Femina who famously said, “Advertising is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.” There were many, many times when I profoundly disagreed with that notion.
But also a lot of times when I couldn’t have agreed more. If I had to pick two locations where I had the most fun in advertising, they would be, One, the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and Two, Charlie Pic’s office at 437 Madison Avenue. Charlie and I worked on the Chivas Regal account together. I would lie on his couch and he would sit at his board drawing. He was a great cartoonist.
The way it worked was, I’d either throw out a line or he’d go pin a cartoon to his wall of cork. If we both liked it, it stayed up overnight. If we didn’t like it the next day, into the trash can. There was zero time pressure. Once a year, we’d take the survivors, fully rendered as full color photo comps, first up to Bernbach for his blessing, and then straight over to the Seagram Building at 375 Park. Home of Edgar Bronfman, or “Ed-God” as we called him.
We’d go to the Board Room and pin all the comps up around the room.By that time we had 20 or 30 that we both really liked. A stream of clients would then enter and walk around like it was a show at a hip art gallery. And in fact, it sort of was. We didn’t hang one in the show we didn’t want to see on the back cover of TIME or LIFE. We’d listen politely to all their comments, generally agreeing with them because it didn’t really matter. We were all awaiting the arrival of Ed-God. After a half hour or so, he would descend from on high. Lots of bowing and scraping in the board room. Charlie and I cool as two cukes on ice. We knew the drill. Ed-God would slowly stroll around the show, hands behind his back, pausing before some of them for a second look. Then he’d say, “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do.” And he’d walk around once more, this time with the head marketing guy in his wake. He’d say, “This one, this one, that one…definitely that one, I love that one. Oh, and this one and this one…etc.”
Until he’d picked twelve that he liked/loved. He’d look at Chuck and I and say, “Thank you very much, gentlemen.” And that was that. We head back over to 437 and put 11 ads plus one Christmas ad into production. That was it. We had a whole new year to think of more. There is no better way to earn a living than that, and no better way to have fun either, Jerry.
As a last happy memory, I recall the morning I went into his office to survey the wall of cork. There was a drawing I didn’t recall from the day before. A depressed guy holding a gas pump to his head like a gun. I said, “I don’t get it.” Charlie said, “Oh, that. It’s not for Chivas. It’s for Volkswagen.” “It’s funny,” I said, “You need a line?” “Nope,” Charlie Pic said, I’ve already got one…’Or buy a Volkswagen.’ That was my dear friend Charlie Pic, doing what he did best.
Assistant to Mr. Piccirillo, Doyle Dane Bernbach.