I grew up, the only child of a retail merchant family. One of my earliest memories is running around my Dad's hardware store, City Line Hardware, in the Bronx. When I was five, he bought another store, Ross Hardware, in North Tarrytown, NY (now Sleepy Hollow). That was my first training ground.
My first job was sweeping floors in my Dad's store. I was about 8. It was an old blacksmith shop dating back to the 1800s and counted the Rockefellers, General Motors and the school systems as customers.
At barely 14, I went off to military school - New York Military Academy. I still "sir" and "ma'am" everyone. So, I might as well get this out of the way. Yes, it's the same school that Donald Trump went to. No, I don't talk about him, even though I was tracked done by a herd of writers and journalists, including the New York Times. I graduated the year before he did.
It was at NYMA that I learned one of life's most valuable necessities - resilience. I think their advertising caught my father's attention and I guess it seemed a good idea to my parents (having attended my 50th class reunion, my position has mellowed and I finally agree). Way before military school, in fifth and sixth grades, I loved being with my Dad's customers, helping make deliveries, selling on the floor, and advertising - doing the small space ads in The Tarrytown Daily News. I can't tell you why, but I did. Both advertising and retail were somehow in my DNA. Getting out of college, I chose advertising to start.
The real world of advertising, not AMC's Madmen world
Scali, McCabe, Sloves
I started at Scali, McCabe, Sloves. I recall I was their sixth employee. A lot more joined and they were among the best in advertising. it would take pages to tell you about them all and the impact they had on me. In the creative department, John Danza, Bob Wilvers, Joe Schindelman Tom Nathan, Ray Myers, Tom Thomas, Jim Perretti (who I also worked with at Della Femina), and those were just at the tip of my tongue. Scali's creativity wasn't just in the creative department, it permeated every department.
There were great account service people - Paul Lennett, Jerry Sherman, Alan Pesky, one of the founders, and in finance and research, Len Hultgren, also a founder. There was Marvin Sloves, its president and an account guy. I don't think I could ever say enough about Marvin but that at 21 or so, and just out of school, he basically walked on water to me.
That creativity also drew great clients. Volvo was my first experience in advertising both in media (I had become the agency's media supervisor in 69) and account service. My first client - Volvo's head of marketing, then boss, Jim LaMarre - who eventually became my good friend, also taught me how to get the best creative from the toughest creative teams.
There were people like Tom Nathan, a fantastic writer whom I met when I was barely out of the mailroom into media and who was always there for me when needed (I always wanted to be a copywriter but Ed McCabe had no room for trainees. I can't write about Ed as so many others have, I'd be embarrassed by not measuring up, and Ed would probably track me down to tell me what's wrong with what I've written). Tom got me the interview at Della Femina, Travisano & Partners. Tom was and still is a great creative talent, and I am fortunate to have him as a friend. At Tom's 80th birthday, a bunch of creative people were at his house. I was the lone account guy. But of the writers and ADs there, from Scali, DDB, TBWA, what made the day special (aside from it being Tom's b-day and telling stories out of school or random out of body experiences from the 60s, was that Joe Schindelman was there. Joe was this brilliant creative director and artist. He was one of Scali's first employee's as well as one of my first teachers having the patience to sit and take me through the process of how ads were really made with his partner, Ray Myers. And while I always thought how great he and Ray were for the incredible promotion kits they did for Volvo, what is truly the pedestal I put him on is he's the guy who illustrated Ron Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Scali was the first four years of my life in advertising, set the stage for the rest of my life, and became the litmus test for what good agencies and great advertising should be about. Scali was the place to be in the late 60s and early 70s. Advertising agencies were still a great place to work at the time, and drew really smart people before they began opting for finance. Ads were still laid out by hand, type cut by hand, copy written, or typed. And writers and art directors (at least the ones I was privileged to work with) never insulted the intelligence of the consumer.
Path As An Itinerant Adman (most ad women and men were, most still are)
My good fortune in advertising didn't stop at Scali. Our client, Volvo, hired me as an ad manager, after, in a fit, I decided I didn't want to be an account guy and went to produce radio commercials (including for Volvo).
The client decided to haul me back from this impulsive decision, he couldn't help with the other - a very short-lived marriage at barely 23, and I got to work with the man, Jim LaMarre, who became a life-long friend until his passing in 2012, and was the cornerstone client of three agencies that broke the WASP tradition of boring advertising - Papert, Koenig, Lois, Carl Ally, and of course Scali. Later, I worked at Della Femina, Travisano & Partners and Rosenfeld, Sirowitz & Lawson.
NoSoap Radio - a short but important stop
Along the way, I had a short stop with Dan Aron of NoSoap Radio (now NoSoap Productions) where we did radio for Phil Geer on Foster Grant, Volvo, and created the radio spots for the Rolling Stones' movie - Gimme Shelter (Dan did much more and I worked with him just a couple of years ago on radio for Great Value sugar free powdered soft drinks, cereals, and hot beverages).
Dan's a special person. A Harvard grad, who went to work for rock radio (WABC) and then took this whacked out group of music people and turned it into one of the most creative radio and music production houses in advertising. He was a media sales person at ABC, handled my business, and when I put Volvo into rock radio and the client went ballistic (he was a QXR guy and the buyers of Volvo were beginning to roll their own) he let me gracefully exit a media buy - not that I didn't fight for what I believed was right.
Right after the first client order came, I "demanded" a day in court ( I can only imagine the hooting and hollering behind my back knowing the reputation of the Volvo marketing head). I made my four foam board presentation of why Volvo should be on rock stations. My client said he'll get back with five slides why they shouldn't (ha!) and now kid, go kill the schedule (I was 23 and literally had no fear of anyone or thing - can't say that about the rest of the agency then). I worked it out with Dan, we became friends (as I did with Jim LaMarre
The client who never changed his radio dial from 105.9 had no idea I just moved from the AM rock stations to WNEW-FM, WPLJ-FM, WCBS-FM and Volvo NY sales were up. When Dan saw me climbing walls as an account guy, a couple of weeks into the new marriage which also had me bouncing off walls, he brought me into his studios on Patchin Place in the West Village, a few blocks from my apartment near St Marks Place. Dan taught me a lot about the time horizon of sales and relationship building.
Doyle Dane Bernbach - Graduate School For Clients
Finally, as I migrated to being a client, fortunate to have smart, articulate, and important guiding supervisors and mentors during my career in the likes of Peter Wensberg and Ted Voss of Polaroid (not counting the time spent on Volvo as it was still the same "family"), it didn't get much better than working with DDB and the likes of Helmut Krone, Jack Mariucci, Bob Gage, Jack Dillon, Phyllis Robinson, Stu Hyatt, Paul Margulies or directors like Steve Horn, and producers like Jane Leipshutz and Joe Scibetta.
Even the "less famous" DDB creatives were famously great. There was this one guy, who I am sure to this day has no idea who I am but created one of the best sunglass campaigns ever - as in ever to this day - for Polaroid Sunglasses. He swept into a briefing in John Fenyo's (a DDB account person) office wearing a long duster, looked at me, nodded his head when I sort of told him what we had that was important, and what I wanted to say, swept out, and swept back in a few days later after hiring one of the best graphic people this side of Keith Haring to graphically show our superiority. The designer/illustrator was Antonio Lopez who first became famous for making a meal out of Bloomingdale's windows, and the DDB art director was Howie " I wish I could remember his last name". Really. It's one of those disconnects that has bothered me for years. He got one of the hottest illustrators in NY to work on this tiny little business. What's really great is that Howie got in a heart beat, the message that we were all about fashion and function, and knew how to communicate it. Pure DDB.
If you want more DDB stories, here are a 100 of them.
Learning from legends
My learning experience is not just about the DDB years. It's also about all the brilliantly creative people whom I worked with and learned from at Della Femina, and at Rosenfeld; Neil Drossman, Dick Raboy, Bob Kuperman, Len Sirowitz, Ron Rosenfeld, Kay Kavanagh, Mark Yustein, Joe O'Neill, John Russo, Bill Kamp, Ron Travisano (who's heart is even bigger than his talent).
It's funny how certain things stand out in memory. I think the best compliments I could ever have gotten came while at Della Femina. Somehow I got stuck filling in on Meow Mix for a couple of weeks as an AE. I was manhandling a way-late mechanical through final check-off. There were about 6 or 7 people milling around Kuperman who was sitting on his couch surrounded by all sorts of Mickey Mouse cels and stuff (I warned you that certain things stand out) and the mechanical had every approval - and I think Kuperman's as well. This was one of those AE moments that at 26 you really do not want to have. Kuperman handed me the mechanical and I was being dismissed (as account guys are) when I looked at him and asked if he wanted the ad to go out with a widow. If you don't know what a widow is, go back to square one, do not collect $200.
It was pretty quiet for a few seconds. Bob gave the mechanical back to some art director, waited a minute, or so it seemed, looked up at me, and said, "you've got a good eye". I still remember. The other was Neil Drossman telling me I should get out of account service and work at becoming a copywriter. I just never had the balls, which is a great regret. Anyway, I just know I left out way too many of the people who were great teachers and influencers for me. But to all of you, named and unnamed, if you ever stumble upon this page, thank you all for having taught me about how to communicate. If by the way, you see a headline or paragraph of only one word as a continuation of a sentence (don't have to go far, I intentionally left one in this "history of Harry"); well, you're looking, first-hand, at a dyed-in-the-wool widow!
When advertising was great - and produced great advertising
The button below will take you to some early places along my business journey as well as some ads, case studies, and "below the line" programs that I've been responsible for and kept with me through my career (I am a real pack rat - even have "black plates" from the old 4/c printing process - BD "before digital") that were strategically correct, motivating whether to consumers or business customers, gave information, and never condescended. I also kept an article from 1974 showing the One Show award winners - many of whom I worked with from Scali and Della Femina. In essence, they were the writers and art directors who helped shape me as an account guy and eventual client to understand what goes into the crafting of good advertising. If you take the time to look through the ads now, you'll see what I'm talking about.
Between learning about great advertising from masters, and growing up in a retail merchant family (hardware, housewares, lawn & garden) learning from my Dad who was a master at delivering great customer service with terrific merchandising sense (my Mom was no slouch either), I was given a great foundation in what it takes to get products to market and into the hands of consumers. And they are lessons I've never forgotten. Nor have I forgotten the people to took interest in opening up an account guy into what's important in the world of creative making sure I understood the lessons I were absorbing like a sponge.