Wednesday, December 8, 2021

How I got my start in advertising

Last week my friend, fellow blogger, and compatriot in curmudgeon-ness, George Tannenbaum published a blog about his friend, fellow blogger and compatriot in curmudgeon-ness, Dave Dye. It concerned our collective race to the bottom of the communications barrel and the rampant pedanticism that ravaged our industry.

You can read it here:

You should read it. 

In fact, if you are at all interested in the state of our business you should regularly read George's razor sharp blog, Bob Hoffman's scholarly veteran take, the inimitable Dave Trott and Dave Dye's blog for revealing observations and experimentation.

Looking at the variety of ways Dave enticed strollers into the cheese shop triggered a long buried memory of how I really got started as a copywriter. You could argue it came about when I worked in the mailroom at Needless Hardons & Tears, with my good friend and now Professor of Screenwriting Jim J. But the truth is it went back further, to many cold wintry nights in Syracuse NY.

You see, unlike my fellow students who often drove fancy cars, had mini-fridges and host of other amenities I could only dream of, I attended the most expensive private university in New York State on a shoestring budget. Actually I didn't even own a shoestring, I had to rummage through the trashcans to get a used shoestring.

It was not easy. 

And so I worked at the Brockway Dining Center about a mile down the road from my dorm. There, I washed dishes, mopped floors, ran errands for the cooks and generally slaved for the entitled masses. 4 hours a night. Often 6-7 nights a week. You know, when I wasn't working my second job flipping burgers at the Red Barn on Marshall Street.

To ease the drudgery, I often went to work stoned. Smoking whatever weed was available in the hallways at Sadler dorm. Or eating cookies laced with $5 a bag skunk weed that one of the guys grew at his parents Adirondack cabin.

When I'd get to work, I'd slip on a plastic apron and one of the paper hats pictured above in order to comply with non-existent NY State regulations regarding the feeding of the, masses. 

If you'll notice, the rectangle on the hat is the same shape and dimension of a standard outdoor board. And every night, hazy from the cheap pot, I would scribble out a 6-7 word pithy thought in thick black magic marker. Some of them were even funny.

It didn't take long for the more privileged students to take notice. And I started growing a following. While refilling the CO2 containers or restocking the ice cream or grabbing extra napkins for one of the Long Island princesses, I'd have many students come up to read my hat.

It became a regular thing. And made my head swell.

Then it occurred to me to save the more popular hats. And so I did. I stored them in a leftover cardboard box from Rickel's hardware and held onto that box of youthful witticisms for a long time. And for an even longer time they took up valuable real estate in my parent's garage. Until a river of rainwater flooded the garage and wiped out what was in essence, my first real portfolio.

Little did I know that I was training myself to become a copywriter. 

Less surprising, outdoor advertising is still my favorite format. 

And now I buy legal weed from the dispensary near the gentleman's club on Robertson. 

Good times.

1 comment:

george tannenbaum said...

Tannenbaum's a hack.
Fat and over-rated.