Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Trip to the Abusement park

If I had a second shot at my life in advertising, I probably would have done a few things different.

One of my regrets is that I never became an Executive Creative Director or a Chief Creative Officer. I know I would have liked the opportunity to helm all the creative decisions and left my own imprint on the business. I like to naively think that no "shit" would have made it out the door.

But that day will never happen as I have become a victim of my own hard-headedness and my self-evident tendency towards bloviation.

Instead of speaking my mind, I should have, as Lee Clow once told me, learned the art of listening. In fact, if you were to question Lee, he would tell you that his success stems from the ability to listen.

It's that simple. (More on that at a later date)

In short, there are no second shots.

And now, at 44, you could argue that my career record needle is fast approaching the paper label in the center of the album. That has its own benefits. For instance, I can speak freely on unpleasant events and unpleasant people (without names of course) with little or no fear of retribution.

About twenty years ago, John Shirley and I were asked to head up the pitch for the new Universal Studios Islands of Adventure Amusement Park in Orlando. The business was worth $100 million and the agency was willing to jump through hoops to please the pitch consultant, a monumentally noxious man who made a habit of talking with his mouth full.

He insisted any agency team working on this mammoth piece of business have a first hand view of the park. Not unreasonable. Except at the time, the park had not been built yet. And it was August. And it was in Orlando. Orlando, Florida.

In other words, it was memorably hot.

For three days, in searing T-shirt soaking humidity, we walked around a 150 acre empty lot and looked at steel I-beams, scaffolding and empty pits. The torture punctuated by our over-zealous, mealy mouth host.

"Over here is going to be the Superman Roller Coaster, which will soar 450 feet onto the air and give riders an excellent view of the Hulk Roller Coaster which will be built in that pit, once they figure out the drainage situation."

Did I mention that guided tour was often delivered while our host was scarfing down croissants, hot dogs, pizza, falafel and baba ghanoush. This man had an insatiable appetite.

If I ate like him, I'd look like me.

When the useless walking tour of the construction site was over, we were treated to a 3 hour briefing. Making matters even worse, the agency we were pitching against was also in the large conference room. When we weren't sizing up the competition we had to listen to Marathon Man and his mammoth sized ego drone on about roller coasters.

At the conclusion, my partner John Shirley did one of the funniest things I had ever witnessed. He turned to the competing agency.

"If you're thinking about a campaign where people stand up in their seats and scream at the top of their lungs as the roller coaster free falls, don't.  Because we already have that story boarded up."

Everyone laughed.

Because we were Chiat/Day and would never resort to such overworked cliched amusement park advertising.

The other agency had no such compunction.

They pitched an entire campaign of people riding coasters, waving their arms and screaming at the top of their lungs.

They won the business.

1 comment:

george tannenbaum said...

Line of the year:
"If I ate like him, I'd look like me."