I'D BEEN HAVING A CRAZY—WELL, CAREER, and so I decided to invite The Old Ad Guy to lunch. I wanted to hear stories of the days when advertising was a wide open town, when you didn’t even start a project until you’d knocked back half a dozen martinis at Riccardo’s, and it was normal on production to be given three weeks, a suite at the Beverly Wilshire and Orson Welles as your announcer—for radio.

We sat down and his first cocktail appeared without him even having to tell the waiter what he wanted. He asked me if I was doing anything good.

“Oh, yeah, I guess,” I said. “I just presented something kinda cool this morning to Pacific ComNetTelSys, and—”

“What time did you get back from the airport?” he asked, puzzled.

“Yeah right,” I said. “Like anybody travels to present anything any more.”

He stared at me in horror. “My God, you don’t mean you presented over that—that box!” he exclaimed. “Do you realize the peril your work—hell, your whole account is in?”

I rolled my eyes. “Well, they don’t fly me around first class like they did you.”

“The ultimate source of everything that is wrong with advertising today,” he intoned, “is the speakerphone.” He took a sip to let the gravity of his point sink in.

“I thought you said it was art directors designing on computers instead of bar napkins—”

“Don’t argue with everything,” he snapped. “Here’s the problem. Assume your client is intelligent. But a hair slower at evaluating creative than professionals like ourselves. So what happens when he takes your work out of the FedEx package and looks at it for the first time?”

“I’m not there. How do I know what she does?”

“He’s quiet,” he said, taking another sip. “For a second and a half. And in that second and a half you get nervous. So you start explaining every detail of your brilliant concept and the amazing creative process by which you arrived at it. Meanwhile your client, who really isn’t stupid, has by now gotten it and made up his own mind. But because you’re communicating with a plastic box instead of another human being, you don’t know that. So you keep talking, and talking, and after a while he starts taking work out of his briefcase to pass the time. And by the time you’re done blathering, he’s so irritated that he kills your work out of sheer annoyance.”

“Hmm,” I said, thinking about times I’d done exactly what he’d described. “I know you always say I need to do less talking and more listening—”

“A lesson I see you’re still in the process of learning,” the Old Ad Guy said, as he held up his empty glass and the waiter nodded, in a perfect demonstration of understanding between customer and supplier without so much as a word spoken.


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