BOOK REVIEW – JERRY DELLA FEMINA – FROM THOSE WONDERFUL FOLKS WHO GAVE YOU PEARL HARBOUR 1971 Pan Books.

 

Terrifically titled, very funny look at the world of pre-computer age Wall Street Advertising agencies, written with genuine affection by an industry insider.

 

The industry is not as sexy, glamourous or exciting as many believe. It is a cutthroat industry where a single lost account can bury a career in seconds. Advertisers work on in dread of the axe falling at any time. There are industry henchmen who have strange ways of sacking staff. One man knew that he had lost his job when he was presented with a rotten fish wrapped in newspaper.

 

The main vice for advertising executives seems to be aspirin, which the neurotic ad writers pop relentlessly. Femina reckons that more advertisers use psychiatrists than the staff of any other business too.

 

He introduces some highly eccentric characters – the co-worker in a nervous breakdown of epic proportions, who tried to throw just desk out of the window of the high-rise skyscraper, and a friend who would blow accounts by saying something stupid and insensitive to a client just as they were about to sign a lucrative deal. 

 

There are astonishing stories about accounts lost due to foolish censorship decisions. One ad, for a child’s toy gun, was banned for showing the child playing with the gun on a mound of dirt. The censor decided that it was misleading to advertise the gun as if it came with a heap of dirt when the child would only get the gun.

 

The author names real firms and agencies throughout the book, giving a strong sense of honesty to the chaos. The title comes from his own comments during a briefing about a potential deal with the Japanese firm, Panasonic.

An excellent book, which seems barely dated at all.

 

© Copyright. Arthur Chappell                          

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