Things were happening at the agency in Chicago. Cousin Don had dissolved his association with Weiss and Geller, and with the Toni account set up his own advertising agency which he called North. I was probably the only person who figured out how he came up with the name. Don Nathanson lived in North Minneapolis and, like all the other Nathansons, attended North High School. “North” worked.
I was over at NBC one day and I looked around at some of the other agency guys working for the big national accounts. They were right out of today’s Mad Men TV series. They were old pros in their forties and fifties doing basically what I was doing, monitoring other people’s creativity. Yes they made decent salaries, however I was living proof that they could be replaced by a kid making $100 a week. Not much of a future for a hot young go-getter.
Most important however, I was wet nursing someone else’s work. That’s not the reason I went into the business. I was trained as a journalist, as a writer. There I was living in the creative capital of America. I was meeting talented writers and directors every day, and seriously felt that I was ready to spread my wings.
I shared my frustration with my cousin and mentor, Don Nathanson. I had an idea; I had met a couple of really creative guys who had an up and coming advertising agency in Los Angeles called Carson Roberts. They had some hot accounts that did national as well as local business, but had no national agency presence.
My idea was that North should acquire or merge or form some type of association with Carson Roberts. I arranged for a meeting with Ralph Carson and Jack Roberts, and Don agreed to fly out here to explore the possibilities. Well… that meeting never took place. As things happen Don ran into an old High School buddy who had a small ad agency in LA with a couple of B movie clients. Over dinner that first night the two old friends decided to set up a joint venture of sorts between their agencies and together go after some Los Angeles based national clients. My deal with Carson Roberts never made it to the table.
Things happened very quickly. Wally, Maxine and I and one secretary moved from Brighton Way into a building on Wilshire where Don’s buddy and his wife had their little agency. The wife ran the business end of his business. They rode to work together every morning and home together at the end of the day. She was what they called a “24 hour wife”. That arrangement was probably why Don’s buddy, who was really a very nice guy, needed three whiskeys at lunch.
Nevertheless, despite my disappointment with Chicago’s decision, I put together a list of prospective accounts for the tentatively merged entity to pitch. Tops on that list was the U.S. division of British Motors that manufactured the MG and Austin Healey sports cars. They were looking for an advertising agency with a national presence even though they had a limited national budget. Nevertheless, this account could have been a foot in the door, my first real client.
Never happened. Somebody in the creative department in Chicago came up with a radio campaign idea with commercials that opened and closed with a roar of a race car engine. The prospective client didn’t like it. In those days communities across the country were having serious problems with hot rods on their streets and the resulting noise pollution.
We lost the account to a local agency who suggested full-page newspaper ads featuring a big good looking guy with a patch over one eye, a direct steal from Hathaway Shirts. That was it for the merger. The deal fell apart. The North office moved back to Beverly Hills, and I was fired. I was replaced by an old show business pal of Bruce Dodge, a nice guy named Eddie something who took over my $100 a week job for $50,000 a year. Go figure it.