Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Hazy Hayden Memories

Last week, one of my old...er, former, bosses, Steve Hayden, was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame. Many bloggers, always looking for new material to write about, seized upon the opportunity and wrote about their experience with Steve.

I see no reason what I should be any different.

Though we share Chiat DNA, sadly I only worked for Steve at BBDO/West for one year. But I like to think it was a pivotal year in my career, mostly because it was so challenging. And mostly because Steve saw his way to help me through it.

Essentially, I was brought in to be a writer on Apple. It was, as I like to describe on my resume, during those dark rudderless days when Steve Jobs was nowhere to be found. Thanks to the clear-as-mud-thinking numbskulls who ran the place, every ad was like climbing Mt. Everest.

To compensate for the torture, Steve found a way to get me work on the side that was more up my alley. For instance, he let me work on the Ortho Pesticide pitch. My partner and I came back to him with about a dozen sophomoric spots featuring insects found in bad 1950's horror movies (see picture above.) I forgot how we linked it to Ortho, I only remember Steve doubling over in laughter as he watched the rough cuts.

We won the account.

On another occasion we had flown to Utah to pitch the Novell/Wordperfect account. On the night prior to the presentation, Steve was telling me this story about how his brother went to BYU. He thought he could endear the new potential clients with war stories about his loose ties to Mormonism. He asked me if I thought it was pandering. I said, I wouldn't do it.

Cut to the next day...

"I'll never forget my college days at BYU and our cherished Cougars..."

I've never seen someone turn on the charm like that. We won the account.

But my favorite Hayden war story, and believe me I have many because I really enjoyed his company and his mentoring, involved Russians and Russian thugs.

Somehow Steve found himself in a conversation with some Siberian "import/export" people. They wanted to introduce a new vodka Baikalskaya to America. It was distilled with the magically clear waters from Lake Baikal, the planet's largest supply of fresh water.

Steve didn't just hand the pitch to me, he wanted to work with me on the creative. And we did what two arrested pubescents would do, we made fun of Siberia. In the process we would crack each other up. We had posters, outdoor boards and in-store material featuring unsightly photos from the Siberian Dating Club.

Because here in Siberia the vodka had better be great.

We even had a contest for new Baikalskaya customers. First prize winner would get a week's paid vacation along the frigid shores of beautiful Lake Baikal.

Second prize winner would get two weeks.

Damn, I miss working for Steve.


george tannenbaum said...

Wonderful. I hear Steve in your writing.

Write Josh said...

nice. i was lucky. i worked for steve for almost 13 years. and like you, my memories are incredible and warm. best boss there ever was.