Monday, March 7, 2011

True stories of a real Mad man: Lightening strikes at the urinal.

True stories of a real Mad Man:  Lightening strikes at the urinal.©Joel Baumwoll

Creating a new ad campaign for one of the big three car makers is a high-pressure job.  Ideas get shot down faster than your little gray cells can conjure them.  Ford was one of the biggest clients at JWT, and the pressure was on.   In the midst of one of these perennial crises,  the late Arnold Grisman, Creative Director told a story which added levity and relieved the tension. 

Grisman was a short, stocky man, with an Edward G. Robinson smile, and a cigar stuck in the corner of his mouth.  One cold November Sunday afternoon, in the middle sixties, he was sweating out feedback from focus groups.  

The account supervisor was telephoning from the Coliseum Motel in Cincinnati where, in the next room, ten "consumers" were tearing apart campaign ideas with the zeal of lions eating Christians in the motel's Roman namesake.

Only two days remained before the BIG IDEA was to be presented to the
BIG MAN.  And no ideas remained alive after three marathon weeks of
creative brainstorming and focus group carnage.

The task?  Merely to create a theme to launch Ford's new flagship model.  The first major restyling in four years had been completed.  NEW BODY!  NEW ENGINE! Billions were riding on this quadrennial gamble.; not to mention the agency's largest account.

In those days, horsepower sold the men and styling got the nod from their wives.  So the client wanted a campaign that would romance the new styling and also sell the big new V8 engine:  two separate ideas to be merged seamlessly into one easy to read, easy to remember slogan.

Grisman recalls taking a much-needed break from the idea furnace that was his office. 

Standing at the urinal, trying to make his mind as blank as possible, his reverie was interrupted by the account executive bringing news from Cincinnati of the latest campaign casualty.  The last idea had gone down in flames.  No "concepts” remained to be fed to the hungry focus group.  What to do? he asked.

Still facing the wall, almost absent-mindedly looking down, Grisman mumbled a line, which had just popped into his head.  The new slogan was dictated to the art director in residence at the motel and presented to the ten "typical car buyers" who gave it the thumbs up!

Later that year a sixty million dollar ad campaign presented car buyers with THE ELEGANT BEAUTY WITH POWER TO PLEASE.

The client was happy.  The agency kept the account.  Only a few insiders knew the source of Grisman's inspiration.  Arnold enjoyed his victory.


  1. A stunningly hilarious story. All the funnier for being true (JB wouldn't lie to us, would he?)

    Grisman must have been VERY well endowed to look down and be inspired to say "THE ELEGANT BEAUTY WITH POWER TO PLEASE."

    Zeke Berman

  2. Thanks Zeke. The story is as told to me by Grisman, whom I believe.