Marvin Fireman

Marvin Fireman was the ‘hot’ young art director of the moment when he was hired away from Y&R.

He had just made his name in the business by doing the ‘Erik is Here’ campaign with the Viking ship sailing into New York Harbor. It was hoped he could do the same thing for American Airlines, whose ads and commercials he would now be handling. I was his assistant.

After creating a series of unique ads and being turned down by the client, he was asked, I guess by the account guys, to continue with the same ongoing campaign that had been running. It had consisted of a large cartoon sketch by Charles Saxon, a Bodoni headline somewhere near the character, four blocks of copy and the American Airlines name at the bottom of the page.

I believe it was originally designed by Bob Gage.

I remember Marv asked me to put together a comp based on a concept that he and writer Dave Herzbrun had developed. It was to be a full page New York Times ad. I called Saxon’s rep and ordered the artwork, had the copy set and waited to put it together. Upon completion, I walked into Marv’s office with a full sized mounted comp.

He took it and held it up at arm’s length in front of himself and stared at it for a short time. Then he squinted at it a bit. Then he shook and scratched his head. Then he asked if I had a push pin and he tacked it up on his wall. This afforded him the chance to step back, fold his arms and stare at it a bit longer, but this time with a slightly ‘cocked’ head, which again he shook negatively.

He then asked if I had a copy of a New York Times, which I did, which he flipped open, placed the mounted ad into, closed and then re-opened to the same page, and again shook his head as he stated in an almost Sherlock Holmes manner … “ah-ha, that’s it! … that’s what needs to be changed … the headline, the headline isn’t in the right place … move it up ….or down … a 16th of an inch … just make sure it’s not in the same place”.

Probably without saying a word, I left Marv’s office with his instructions. As I walked back to my office I began thinking about what had just taken place. “It was a comp, not a finished Ad” I said to myself “Who was going to notice a sixteenth of an inch?”. Being the cocky kid that I was at the time, I thought nobody would notice. So I got back to my office and closed the rippled glass door that I had covered with an actual sized cutout of Soupy Sales. I figured it would take 20 minutes to a 1/2 hour for a new stat to come up and get mounted.

So I sat back and called my friend who I shared New York Jets season tickets with. If I remember correctly, we had recently been Super Bowl champions, as it turns out for the first and only time, so we had something to talk about. We talked for about 25 minutes and I then waked back into Marv’s office carrying the exact same comp I had previously brought in with me under my arm.

Marvin again went through a very similar routine. He held it out in front of him, he put it up on the wall, he even put it into the same copy of the NY Times as he had before. But this time he shook his head positively.

“Much better”.

Two lessons I learned.
1. Make sure you always see the changes you made – side by side.
2. Never trust your assistant.


Edd Griles
DDB Art Director