June 8, 2015

No Mad Man

Celebrating ab+c's 40th anniversary at a Mad Men themed party.

Celebrating ab+c’s 40th anniversary at a Mad Men themed party.

Many have heard me talk about how lucky I was to “fall into” the advertising business. Not sure it was pure luck—my dad owned an advertising/PR shop for many years that was located, coincidentally, about two blocks from my office today.

My entry into this business was pretty much accidental. I had given notice at my other job and told the agency I had been working with as a client that I was “talking to some folks.” To this day, I swear I had no appointments lined up, but the agency said, “Well, would you talk to us?” Three meetings later, I was in the advertising/PR world!

Quickly, I began not only to learn the nuances of the business but to really enjoy the work. My title was Account Executive and my charge was to bring lots of projects back to the agency for smarter, more creative people to work on. I coordinated budgets, established timelines for delivery, and worked with creative people to produce the most interesting and effective communications.

I got to work with some extremely talented people—oftentimes well into the night. The tools of the trade were very different back then. Colored pencils were an important asset to any worthwhile designer. Markers and paper swatches needed to be in ready supply. All of the work was done by two parts of the body—the brain and the hands! (Okay, throw in the eyes and ears.) There was a lot more print work largely because there was no worldwide web, so virtually every business needed and wanted a “capabilities” (all about us) brochure. And because there was more print work, both printers and photographers thrived. We had no stock photo houses. If a creative person had a vision that included a compelling photo, it usually had to be shot. I have some great memories of photographers and specific photo shoots.

But that was yesterday. And I’ve been fortunate to participate in the fascinating evolution of our industry. The finished look/sound of today’s concepts is amazing—so close to final and so fast. Some of the remarkable digital work that I’ve seen for websites, landing pages and social media is truly wonderful. And it’s all just going to keep getting better.

I talked about enjoying the work. Nonsense! I fell completely in love with this unpredictable, often exhausting, always intriguing industry. Leading the way are the people I’ve had the pleasure to meet and work with. These are some incredible minds and hearts and, to a person, they know how to have fun! The job that we do together is often very gratifying. Crafting communications that will help the average consumer make a tough decision about cancer care. Developing messages and graphics for a worthwhile university that has been in need of help. Helping physicians find the right community to relocate their practice and family. Assisting taxpayers with more efficient routes to paying federal and state taxes. Working with a regional nonprofit in desperate need of a capital campaign. This kind of work makes you feel productive and valuable after a day at the office. It’s nice to do a job in which, from time to time, the client sends a note to the whole team, or during the course of a phone call interrupts to say, “By the way, make sure everyone who worked on that video knows how much we appreciate your time and effort.”

But there comes a time for each of us to move on. My health is good. My wife and daughters are thriving. There are so many good, smart people that are eager to fall in love with the advertising business, it’s time for me to retire. At the end of June, I will step aside—head for the golf course, for at least one day in the middle of the week—then see where the next chapter begins.

No question about it—I have been a very fortunate man. I fell into a job that I liked. Fell in love with this industry. Managed to stay employed for 30-some years. Met—and even worked with—lots of magnificent people.

Mad man? Not me. I’ve had way too much damned fun!

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  • Tom DeSanto

    Congratulations, Mike. You served so many clients with skill, hard work, wisdom, and most of all, kindness. One of my father’s favorite praises applies well here: “You are a gentleman and a scholar.” All the best to you in your next chapter. Tom DeSanto

  • Peter Gerritsen

    Mike – you represent all that is wonderful about our industry. Thank you for all you’ve given to so many of us in this business. You are a great man. Thank you my friend – Pete

  • Mark Dresdner

    Mike: I wish you amazing times during your next chapter of life. Working with you has always been easy, fun, and productive. All the best!