Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Stew on this

My first run in with Mark Fenske was not a good one.

This was a very long time ago. He had just opened up the Wieden & Kennedy satellite office in Santa Monica. And for some unknown reason I believed I was good enough to work there. I wasn't.

Nevertheless I dropped my book off at his office and waited for Fenske to call me. Begging me to join W&K and start work immediately. He didn't.

In fact, I didn't get my portfolio back for another three weeks. And when it was returned there was no note, no criticism, no evidence that the portfolio had ever been looked at.

Fenske had made my Shit List.

Years later, while at Chiat/Day, I ran into Mark again. He was a freelance writer and I was someone that Lee Clow actually knew by name and would talk to in the hallway. In creative circles, that signals instant credibility.

Mark and I became friends. In fact we established a golfing foursome that played quite regularly at Malibu Country Club on Tuesday mornings. There is nothing so satisfying as playing golf, even poorly, and getting paid at the same time.

Fenske left California and became a professor at VCU. I don't know how one teaches copywriting (I suspect one day I'll be doing the same) but if anyone knows anything about the craft, it's Mark.

Here's an ad (in the form of a letter to his students) he wrote years ago. You won't find it in any awards annual or framed in any corporate hallway. In fact if you've never been to Richmond, Virginia chances are you never would have seen it.

But among the hundreds he has written and I have admired, this is my favorite:

What makes this copy so good?

It is brimming to the top with persuasiveness. After reading this ode to cubed meat goodness I wanted to rush to the supermarket to pick up all the necessary fixins' and start cooking.

But here's the thing, I hate beef stew.


Bob said...

You're going to get the cold shoulder from Fenske again for calling Brunswick Stew beef stew.

glasgowdick said...

You are correct sir. There is a difference between Brunswick and Beef. In fact, in the south, Brunswick is often prepared with roadkill. Mmmmmm, squirrelly goodness.

hooperworld said...

I have always admired Mark's brevity and economy of words. Whatever he writes is easy to read.
Also his equal evaluation of god and dogs.
His writing is impressive. It is, as you say, pervasive.
His words inspire...um...like...inspiration. They are self referential.
And kind of auto cannibalistic.
Here is truth from someone who, if nothing else, knows this:
Mark is bonkers.
In a cool way.
Sort of.

Jordan Sher said...

I had Mark as a writing professor. One time he told me I was the worst writer in the history of VCU to ever be admitted. Trust me; to get your book back in the mail without so much as a post-it was a compliment.