What I Miss Most About the Ad Biz.

Until I quit working and moved to Maui, I owned and ran a mid-sized advertising agency in Honolulu. I had a partner for most of those 20-plus years and Alan and I had an excellent relationship for the entire time we were together.
The advertising business can be challenging and stressful, but it’s just plain fun a lot of the time. I’ve been retired from the business for a dozen years now, and it’s nice not to have to deal with the hassles. But what I really miss is going to work every day with smart, creative, young people.
When I walked into the office on the morning of the day I turned 50, everyone on the staff was wearing big round campaign-style buttons that said “I’m not 50, but Jim is!” Then they presented me with my button—bigger than all the rest—and of course it said, “I’M JIM”.
When Alan announced he was getting married, it presented an awkward situation for the staff: What do you get the boss as a wedding gift? How much do you spend? What’s enough? More to the point, what’s too little?
Finally, one of the art directors came up with the perfect solution: the quintessential wedding gift cliché, a toaster. But not just one toaster; everyone would give the couple a toaster. We would all get a laugh imagining the gifts being opened and the gag becoming apparent, then Alan could return all the toasters and the newlyweds would have $500 or $600 to spend on something they really wanted.

As it turned out, Honolulu’s biggest department store didn’t have enough identical toasters. They did, however, have 17 identical fish grills. This delighted the art director because, as she correctly pointed out, Alan would never ever use a fish grill and this took the plot to a whole new level. She made the purchase and had them all gift wrapped with different colored paper and ribbons.
The wedding was wonderful, the bride was stunningly beautiful—still is, by the way—and the fish grill gambit worked wonderfully: Alan and his bride had opened four of them before Alan could be convinced it wasn’t a huge coincidence.
I really do miss those smart, creative young people.