Revisiting A Legendary Marketing Career

May 2, 2018

It all seems like yesterday. Me from 1994 to 1996. I was a young twentysomething account executive at Mona Meyer McGrath & Gavin. I reported to Jörg Pierach. I worked with Scott Broberg. I wore a lot of Pier Connection shirts. I listened to a lot of Gin Blossoms. It was an awkward time personally. But professionally it was a blast. I mean, my main accounts were Coca-Cola and Jim Beam. Come on. I felt like Sinatra.

But if my job was a mixed drink, my skills were a mixed bag. There were lessons I needed to learn. Oh, such painful lessons. But I was grateful for them, just as I was for the experience. The thing I remember about agency life is that no two days were the same. I liked that. You never knew where the day would take you. Here, then, were the highlights of my historic three-year career.

I Once Supervised a U.S. Women’s Pro Ski Tour Party While Violently Ill
We had a client that sponsored the U.S. Women’s Pro Ski Tour and asked us to come up with a bar-party idea for tour stops. We came up with the Meet Your Match Challenge. If you came to the party, you would be given a name tag with a celebrity. Your goal for the night would be to find your celebrity match. If you were given Bruce Willis, you had to find Demi Moore. (This was 1996, people.) If you did, you won prizes. How could this not be fun?

I will tell you how it was not fun: I got food poisoning. I made the mistake of treating myself to a chalet hot dog after snow-plowing down Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire. Dear people, never eat a chalet hot dog. Never. Eat. A. Chalet. Hot. Dog. I showed up at the party shaking like it was the first day of school. Honestly, I don’t know how I got through it. I had all these faux-celebrities zipping around with smiles on their faces and drinks in their hands and I’m leaning up against a wall praying for sweet death.

If You’ve Never Looked Through a Dumpster For a Media List, You Really Ought To Try It
This one I can’t blame on a hot dog — it was all me. Back in the day, when we sent out a news release, we would work off a hard-copy media list, highlighted to indicate intended outlets. Ancient, I know. For this one client, it was a particularly eccentric scattering, based on a variety of local news pegs, only noted with that yellow highlighter. Easy enough, or so I thought. I organized the mailing for that one release — we had several in various stages of approval for that client — and reported back a job well done.

Except I was told that the release shouldn’t have gone out. I misheard instructions. Oh no. My account leader, bless her heart, calmly said, no worries, we’ll just send out a correction. Go get the list. Oh no. No, no, no. I had tossed the list the night before, after the mailing went out, since I knew we weren’t doing follow-up calls. My supervisor still didn’t bat an eye, which I’ve always admired. But she clearly was not relishing the client phone call she was going to have to make. I asked her to wait. I wanted to see if I could get that list back. I called building management to see if the garbage from the day before was still on the premises. I was told it was, festering in a dumpster behind the building. So I did what I felt was logical on a hot August day: I walked and jumped in. I opened a lot of disgusting bags, which included, and enjoy this thought, leftovers from the neighboring seafood restaurant Kincaids. But after about 45 minutes of rooting, I pulled that list. And then I walked back to the office, sanitized myself aggressively, and sent out a corrected news release. Just another day.

Keep Your Voice Mails Short Or Risk the Wrath of Editors
I don’t think I’m welcome in Kansas City anymore. Not after the one minute and 25-second voicemail I laid on a features editor at the Kansas City Star. When I got hired at the agency, I spent a good six months on the phones just pitching stories. It was great media training. I got pretty good at it. But I had a learning curve. One was in leaving concise voice mails. I used to figure that if I got voice mail, I should just go for broke and really get into it. Mistake. I had this explained to me in shouting detail from a worked-up editor who called me back just to tell me to shut the hell up. (True.) I was a bit taken aback, and he kept going on until I pointed out to him that he had been yelling at me longer than my voice mail so we were even. Then he laughed. He even covered the story. But I’m still careful about city limits.

I’m pleased to be back. I’ve missed the variety. I’ve missed the challenges. I’ve missed working with people who know how to laugh.

Which reminds me: Just where is Fast Horse’s dumpster? This time I’d like to be prepared.