Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mad Men before Mad Men. Chapter 23

      Here's another excerpt from The Candle, a novel I wrote about advertising in the 1970s.  You could call it a sequel to Mad Men, which takes place in the 1960's.

except The Candle was written before the series appeared on TV.

              chapter twenty three

                     Johnny Reynolds in the back of his black Lincoln limo, 6:15 AM, 75 MPH on the Hutchison River Parkway, passing through Pelham Manor on his way to get a jump on the day.  Get some work done before the shit river overflowed its banks onto his desk. 
                 In 1776 600 tough Boston insurgents hid behind the stone walls of the original Pelham Manor’s estate and picked off enough of the 4,000 English and Hessian troops to send them back to the beaches.  The town likes to claim the Battle of Pelham was the turning point of the revolutionary war because it saved Washington’s army and gave him time to retreat to the safety of White Plains. 

                The CEO of Johnathan Reynolds, great grandson of the founder of the world’s largest advertising agency learned all about Pelham in grade school.  Sometimes he even thought about those tough seamen and farmers, outnumbered 66 to one, fighting for their turf against the invaders.  Breaking all the rules of warfare.  Sometimes he felt like he had been given the Hessians to command as the younger, slicker, more creative agencies took pot shots at his great ship of state.  But he was not thinking of Hessians and revolutionaries now. 

             Now, sleek, showered,  in the back of the limo, his mind was elsewhere.   He was reading the N Y Times, saying, “Fuck.  Fuck.  Fuck.  We are fucked.”    


        By Thomas Feeley
Free Burgers Anyone?

                                       Dickie Laffer, CEO and marketing force of nature at Beefalo Burgers blew into town yesterday to huddle with BBDO, Y&R and Creative Hotshop, Fararly, Faucett, Majestic.   So how come the guys at Johnathan Reynolds, BB’s agency of record ,didn’t even know Mr. Laffer was in the neighborhood?
                    “We’ve already talked to them until I’m blue in the face,” Laffer said when I tracked him down at the Cloud Club on top of the Chrysler Building.  Ironically Reynold’s NY headquarters are just across the street.  But the canyon that separates America’s biggest agency and Laffer’s Beefalos is wide and deep.  “They just don’t seem to understand what we need to do.  Or if they do, they don’t seem to be able to get a first down. We’re tired of playing in third place when we have a first place product.”
                    Has BB fired JR?  “It’s not official.  I guess I keep putting it off because I hate going to funerals,” Laffer said.  “I’ve told them they can show us their hail mary before we kick off our sales conference in a couple of weeks.  But between you, me and the man in the moon, it’s strictly a courtesy.  I’ll tell you this,” Laffer said in that voice that got its power from his years as a company commander in the Marines; “We’re not going to be disappointed by Johnathan Reynolds, whatever they show us.  We are not going to be disappointed  because our expectations, based on our experience, are lower than a crab’s ass.”
                 Nobody ever said Fast Food was easy.  Beefalo has been lagging behind McDonalds and Burger King and the gap is growing with Beefalo’s market share dropping close to single digits.  Laffer says Beefalo’s overall ad spend will be in the range of  75 million next year which would be, if our rumours can be believed, less than half of what McDonalds puts on the table.  OK going up against the Golden Arches and the King of Burgers is an uphill battle. But isn’t that when the tough get going?  Plus there’s more than enough gold in Beefalo’s  pot  to attract those wizards who say they know how to build a rainbow. 
                   Looking out across Lexington Avenue  to JR,’s offices, I think I smell something burning.  Or is it just smoke?  

                    “Shit. Fuck. Fuck. Shit.” Johnny said.  Once the market opened Johnathan Reynolds stock would drop like a stone.  And then the real sharks would come gliding through the front doors.

1 comment:

VassarGirl said...

See also Croswell Bowen's profiles of the advertising giants of the late sixties in Madison Avenue Magazine!