The Cult of Gleitsman - the Hippo Studios blog

Accidental Mentors

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

There were two of them. One was lanky, the other stout. One, a man; the other, a woman. Both were married, Both, the owners of successful agencies. Both came up in the "Mad Men" era of advertising. He in Boston; she in Chicago. Their names were Dick Conwell and Janet Body, and their philosophies of advertising were diametrically opposed.

Dick was a pragmatist and used media like a blunt instrument: straight to the point, no frills, massive, highly targeted buys. Move the product any way you can, Janet felt that commercials were an art form; that quality and intelligence would move product. She was the best radio copywriter and producer I've ever worked with. She loved awards; thought they validated the work: Dick thought they were beside the point.

Janet thought Dick a vulgarian. Dick thought Janet a dilettante. I think they fascinated each other.

I met them both when I started a tinker toy of a studio in the mid '70s in Portland, ME. They were my first clients, and I was their first local studio. Before I opened, they worked with the big boys in Boston and New York. They took a chance with me in spite of my nonexistent resume and taught me everything I needed to know.

Dick swore allegiance to the client and made war on their competitors. He enlisted you and said, in effect, "follow me, this is going to be an adventure! We're going to kick the shit out of the other guys. And we're going to have fun doing it."

Janet was a master, and I, her apprentice. She demanded perfection, and stripped my skin off with a very sharp tongue if I didn't deliver. She created radio so vivid you'd swear you could see it.

Neither one of them made it to fifty. Dick had a series of strokes born of hard living and recklessness. Janet had cancer.

I am one of many who miss them.

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