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October 3, 1956

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The Miracle Ingredient



THE office had a clean new aroma, sort of like a crisp, freshly painted $20 bill. It was large and in excellent taste. Modern, yet with a nice traditional feel. It isn't easy to be both at one and the same time, yet here it was. The deep rich cinnamon carpeting not only absorbed the bright sunshine streaming in through the south window, but seemed to be creating some of its own. It was beautiful. Most impressive was the desk. There was none. Only a series of low, superbly designed, backless couches scattered around the room with an artless carefully arranged carelessness. Foam rubber cushions, covered with lovely hand-loomed chocolate-tinted fabric imported from Israel. Hand rubbed walnut done by a Japanese architect now residing in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Altogether an exercise in good taste. Handled Himself Easily Sitting under a Czanne that hung on the far wall was a large red-faced man who appeared to be answering the questions being fired at him by a crowd of reporters. He handled himself easily, as though he had spent a lifetime leading, instructing, or, most likely, commanding people. He ha closely cropped salt-and-pepper hair that made him look younger than he probably was. His suit was dark-grey hard English tweed, loosely cut and nicely casual. It was obvious that he was at home with this crowd; they loved him, and he felt warm about them. Standing next to him, his back to the wall, was a short stout man wearing thick horn-rimmed glasses. He occasionally answered a question or two, and from time to time would whisper something to the man seated next to him. But there was no mistaking who led whom. The man with the glasses was a follower, but an assured one. "LOOK HERE, you guys, I want you to still call me Charlie. I've been Charlie to most of you for a long time, and now just because this thing came along isn't going to change anything." The crowd grinned at the large red-faced man who had just spoken. He paused slightly and continued: "Now I know you all have a gang of questions about plans and so forth, and Al here has a fine series of brochures and a really great presentation booklet that the boys in the copy department and the art gang have put together. There's a lot of fine stuff that makes good copy there. But anytime you got a question, I want you to fire away. A tall thin sad-looking man spoke up from the rear of the crowd: "Hey, Charlie, there've been a lot of rumors floating around that you fellows really got something good in the works for the kick-off. Can you say anything about it yet?" 'Some Great Stuff' Charlie grinned and carefully crossed his legs. He spoke. "Look, Buz, I'd love to spell it out for you, but we're afraid that too much advance press might kill the surprise-value of the kick-off, but I can tell you we got some really great stuff ready to go. Without tipping our hand, I can say that the boys in the art department have put together one of the sharpest teaser series I've ever seen, and you guys know how long I've been in the game." A voice from the crowd said: "There's been talk that you got the outfit that came up with the Bert and Harry Piel spots doing some work for you, what about it?" The man in the horn-rims bent over and whispered something in Charlie's ear. "Well, you're going to hear a lot of stuff, but don't jump to conclusions boys. Now I'm not denying anything but I'm not going to confirm anything either, so whatever you write is your own business, but don't come around crying if it turns out to be the wrong dope. But remember I'm not denying a thing" - all this is what Charlie said after listening to the whispers in his right ear. A couple of men made notes after Charlie had finished. He smiled a kinf of knowing paternal beam at them. He knew how to leak a rumor. ANOTHER man spoke out of the crowd: "Is the Chief himself figuring in the kick-off plans?" Charlie answered: "That, I can't tell you yet, but I can say that he has seen the TV teaser films and thinks they're great. You guys know any client I've ever had has loved my stuff, and there's no reason to think that this is going to be any different." Someone asked: "Do you have any dope on what kind of budget will be involved?" The man with the horn-rims answered that one. "Most of that stuff will be right here." He patted a stack of blue-covered brochures on a table next to him. "We can tell you that this is going to be a real saturation job, and that costs dough, but don't for a minute think that the client won't get it back." He grinned when he finished speaking, and the whole crowd chuckled at the answer. Everyone was in a fine humor, especially since a white-coated porter was discreetly replacing their empty glasses with full ones. The man in the horn-rims spoke: "Go ahead and finish your drinks boys. Charlie has to go to the meeting at 10, and it's three minutes to. It's not a good idea to be late the first day at work." Again the crowd laughed good-naturedly. Charlie carefully put his own glass down on a low coffee table in front of him and said slowly: "This is it,guys. Wish me luck." He rose and picked up his cowhide attach case from the couch. The crowd parted to allow him to walk to the door. Someone raised a glass and called after him: "Good luck, Mister Secretary!" The new, and first, Secretary of Advertising left the room on his way to his first Cabinet Meeting.


Copyright: 1956 The Village Voice

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October 03,1956
Village Voice Pic

Courtesy: Joanne Berg

    
37 (19561003C)