Chapter 14

Making Shoes versus Making Shoe Commercials

Is this a great business, or what?


What makes it great are all the knuckleheads. All the people just slightly left of center. This business seems to attract them. People who don’t find fulfillment anywhere else in the business world somehow end up on advertising’s doorstep, their personal problems clanking behind them like cans in back of a just-married car. They come for very personal reasons, with their own agendas. They bring to the business creativity, energy, and chaos, and from the business they get discipline, perspective, and maturity.

All in all, they make for an interesting day at the office, these oddballs, artists, misfits, cartoonists, poets, beatniks, creepy quiet guys, and knuckleheads. And every one of them seems to have a great sense of humor.

David Ogilvy once wrote, “People do not buy from clowns.” He was suggesting there is no place for humor in effective advertising. Forgetting for a moment whether Mr. Ogilvy was right, wrong, or extremely wrong, the thing is this: people do buy from clowns. Every day, millions of Americans use something sold by a clown, because the ad industry employs clowns by the tiny-circus-car-load.

Don’t get me wrong; most of the people in the stories that follow are smart businesspeople. You’d want them on your team. But they’re world-class knuckleheads as well. Agencies are full of ’em.

It’s just one clown after another all the way down the hallway. Knuckleheads ...

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