Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mad Men and their 40 year war


George Lois' memory of Rita Selden writing the VW Lemon ad might not be so reliable after all. (How did I miss this?) Turns out Lois' former writer at DDB and partner at PKL, Julian Koenig, has been raging against him for decades, even going so far as to take out an ad in Adweek, accusing Lois of being "the greatest predator of my work." In fact, NPR just did a podcast about how Koenig is fighting to win back recognition he insists he deserves for lots of ads that Lois either takes credit for or attributes to others.



The piece is convincing, although the journalist discloses that she is his daughter. But contemporaries from the business are speaking up on Koenig's behalf, as well.



An Ad Class blog post about Koenig vs. Lois elicited a commiserating comment from the daughter of Lou Dorfsman who passed away recently.
My father would have HOWLED at your piece on NPR and also would have nodded his head sagely, knowing all too well that what you report is true. GL was a speaker at the memorial, of course, and one of my biggest fears was that the speech would turn into the George Lois Show.

Yes, the pair look chummy in this photo that Steve Hall Rick Kallaher took last year at an event honoring legends of advertising past hosted by the One Club. But their show of camaraderie was perhaps just for display in front of the biggest crowd of Mad Ave names gathered since David Ogilvy's funeral.

All that's certain: one of them is lying. Or having a senior moment. Is it the guy who convinced Muhammad Ali to pose as a pin-cushion? Or the guy who claims to have invented thumb-wrestling? A question even more salient: what role did Rita Selden play in growing the Lemon? Google won't tell. In fact, according to them, she barely existed. One thing Mad Men seem to have had over Ad Broads is affinity for PR.

UPDATE: Commenter Dominik points to Dave Trott's Blog which provides interesting insight into the longstanding squabble, and a marvelous Zen story.

FURTHER UPDATE (via email from Dominik Imseng, Matter & Gretener Werbeagentur AG, Zurich):

On February 17th, 2010 I had the chance to talk to Julian Koenig. I quote him:

The accurate story of the “Lemon” ad goes like this: Rita Selden came into Helmut Krone’s office and saw a rough of an ad hanging on the wall. It showed a Beetle with the headline “This Volkswagen missed the boat,” the copy explaining that the 3,389 inspectors in Wolfsburg were saying “no” to one Volkswagen out of fifty after final inspection.

“Why don’t you write ‘Lemon’,” Rita said. Helmut liked the line and said: “Go talk to Julian.” Rita went straight to my office and told me about “Lemon.” I said “terrific!” and “This Volkswagen missed the boat” became the first sentence in the body copy.

I added his comment on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0rEZ0wEQqU


24 comments:

CORPORATE ROCK said...

Glad you posted again -- I happened to hear this NPR broadcast (on an actual car radio!) and was wondering ...

Teenie said...

Dang. Woman eclipsed by fighting men. Pfft.

mtlb said...

The photographer’s name is Ric Kallaher. I was there with Angela from AdRants that night and there was definitely a buddy-buddy vibe in the air.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

@Corporate Rock Wow! Listening to radio on an actual car radio. How deliciously retro ;)

@Teenie Pfft. Well said.

@mtlb Oh! It was Angela! I'll update. Thanks for weighing in. You make the scene at all the good par-tays.

mtlb said...

Just the ones I’m not thrown out of. o_O

Dominik said...

Here's an interesting post by Dave Trott on the Lois Koenig fight: http://www.cstadvertising.com/blog/2009/06/26/

Shana said...

Happy Blog of Note

Isaac Yassar said...

Congrats, you're the blog of note! Those men are really mad..

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blessingsgoddess said...

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Laiza said...

Congratulations for being in the BoN! :)

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

@mtlb But you're thrown out of only the best ones, I hear ;)

@Dominik Thanks for the link. Interesting insight! I'll post an update.

@Shana @Isaac Yassar @Laiza Thanks for the tip off. Had no idea I was Blog of Note. Wondered why my statcounter was going crazy :)

@Anonymous Sorry you find my blog design boring. But at least it's live. The site you point me to is not.

@BlessingsGoddess Thanks. Years of copy and pasteup and...writing Greek ;)

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Anonymous said...

In Alastair Compton's book "the Craft of Copywriting" it is said that Rita Selden said/wrote the headline "Lemon." The author has Bob Gage at DDB as his source.

/J

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