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January 26, 2009

Virginia Pellegrino

Ah, a name so refreshing, it should come bottled. Virginia Pellegrino ...

I worked at Chiat/Day Seattle (later Livingston) from 1977 – 1983.  I was VP/ Broadcast Producer.  I produced those Alaska Airlines, Pacific NW Bell ... etc.... spots you mentioned in your Roger piece!   I wasn’t in the rafting picture — probably someplace on a shoot.   Was there during the BEST time!  Still in Seattle — freelance writer now.  

Cheers -- Virginia

Taco Bell Corp. vs. TBWA


Who can forget the classic commercials TBWA Chiat/Day created for Taco Bell which starred a beady-eyed, talking chihuahua?

Apparently, U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals cannot, for today they finally ruled in the case of of Taco Bell Corp. vs. TBWA.

Two guys in Michigan, who created the character, sued Taco Bell and were awarded $42 million for breach-of-contract. Taco Bell then sued TBWA, but lost the suit today. Taco Bell was held to be responsible for paying the Michigan guys the $42 million.

This means the Michigan guys can pull into their local Taco Bell drive-thru and order 35,294,117 crunchy tacos!

Read all about it here.

(I'd just like to say that I had a dream in 1986 about a pink bunny and batteries.)


Jerry Fields, who is a freelance copywriter

Greetings Steve.

I'm an infrequent reader of your smart, and entertaining site, but I do enjoy it.

I don't suppose you're planning on adding an addendum to the Taco Bell story, but I'd just like to give Chuck Bennett (and his partner on the project, Clay Williams?) the credit they deserve.

Using a Chihuahua is not an idea. A chihuaha is simply the beginning of an idea. Executing the campaign as well as Chuck and Clay did is what made it a fully formed, entertaining, and distinct idea.

Everyday we see a parade of new personification campaigns, and as a device it's nothing new. In the 1960s Leo Burnett built an entire agency around talking, non-humans: Milton the Talking Toaster, Charlie the Tuna, the Jolly Green Giant, Poppin Fresh, etc.... Speedy Alka-Seltzer, a talking tablet, sprung to bubbling life in the 40s, or thereabouts.

What made all of these distinct were their personalities, and the situations in which they were placed. Crispin's black, talking Beetle is certainly a cool, and distinct, personality/campaign--all due respect to My Mother the Car and Herbie the Love Bug.

We're all human, but it's the details, large and small, which make us originals.

Reverse personification, "Hi, I'm an Apple. And I'm a Mac," is a good example of distinct character development that defines the campaign as original. Chuck and Clay's Taco Bell work was no less well defined. The dog had attitude, expressed in how he dressed and what he said. It could have been a lap dog, it wasn't.

Sit-coms are the same in that they nearly all begin with identical foundational tools, but grow themselves into unique worlds. Consider: A husband who frequently gets himself into trouble. (George Jefferson, Al Bundy, Peter Griffin.) A wife/relative/neighbor/friend that has to bail him out. (Louise. Peggy, Lois) A wacky ensemble cast around which to build parallel story lines.

The Jeffersons, Married with Children and Family Guy are as unique as "the east side," suburban Chicago and the animated parts of Irish Catholic Rhode Island.

Using the same component parts, sit coms even attract different audiences. God may not be in evidence in many places, but he/she/it is very much in the creative details.

I have a friend who some years before pitched a Chihuahua campaign to Taco Bell. I've never seen the campaign. It might have been great, it might have stunk, but the fact that Taco Bell has seen so many campaigns built around a Chihuahua underscores the fact that a dog, by itself, is only a dog. Just one piece of a campaign puzzle. Nothing more.

The two Michigan lawsuit lottery winners don't deserve a dime, let alone 42 million, or whatever the sum, unless Taco Bell/Chuck and Clay, had copied their Chihuahua comic strip. I haven't seen the comic, but I do know Chuck well. He is an original. Nothing borrowed about him, or how he thinks. This seems to be verified in the courts seeing fit to protect Chiat/Day.

On a slightly related note, there is currently a suit against Chiat, and perhaps Apple, involving the use of a Marshal Mathers song. I'm sure you've read about it. A close friend of my father's handles some business affairs for Marshal, and has brought the suit, which apparently has not gone well for Chiat in the first legal skirmish. I don't know if the case has merit or not. I don't know the details. Said lack of knowledge will not prevent me from taking sides, however. I think more highly of Lee than my father's friend, so who needs facts to arrive at a verdict? Maybe we should send a Chihuahua to Michigan to bite the ankles of both the two guys who collected all the coin from Taco Bell as well as Marshal Mathers and his watchdog manager. It all sounds (slim) shady to me.

When I asked Jerry for permission to post these comments of his, he filled me in on his background and what he's up to now:

If you're foggy as to who I am, here's some background: I was a writer with Chiat L.A. in '89 and '90. I worked with Michael Smith, Pam Cunningham, Victoria Felice and Chuck Bennett. I'm the guy who came from NYC to join in the reunion festivities.

I work freelance, and have done so since 1994 in fact, but of late have decided that I'd like to do more than ride in, save the day, they riding back down the elevator to the cries of, "Shane. Shane. We love you, Shane. Come back, Shane!" so I am now receptive to any interesting staff jobs that might pop up. Given how expansive your world is, perhaps one of your friends, from a continent near or far, will ask if you know of someone who fits my background. My site is http://www.jmfields.com. It's a great site. Check out the opening of the "Tragic TV" section.

January 25, 2009

25 years of Macintosh

A great retrospective of some amazing moments in Apple history, including the unveiling of the first Mac.

Can you imagine anyone screaming at a product introduction?

Get well, Steve Jobs.

January 24, 2009

The Hoefer Handshake


(click on photo to see a larger image)

From Chuck Phillips (C/D Employee #1) ...

Here's a 1980 photo of the group handshake completing the purchase ("merger") of agency hoefer, dieterich & brown, thus entrenching chiat/day in san francisco and putting them in a position to buy regis mckenna agency which yielded the apple computer account.

look how bloody young chiat looked. the folks in the photo are (L to R) me, our wonderful chairman monty mckinney, "the admiral" (john hoefer who had a ship sunk under his command in WWII), jay, and john pelkan (HD&B's president and hoefer's son-in-law) who didn't last very long (i think I'm the only one still alive).

those two cultures were as alien as any ever put together. at the time i likened it to a marriage of the hare krishna with the catholic church. it seemed like a dumb idea at the time. but jay was about as dumb as a fox.

January 16, 2009

Adelaide Horton

Click to see a larger version.

Adelaide Horton made it onto the front page of today's New York Times (see photo above.) She was on the flight that landed in the Hudson River on Thursday. She is shaken, but safe.

January 09, 2009

Microsoft Songplay

Somebody must hunt down the people who create Microsoft's advertising and get them to take their anti-psychotic meds.

January 07, 2009

Pitching Laker

Sir Freddie Laker
Sir Freddie Laker

Robert Chandler (former creative, LA) has been corresponding with the son of the irrepressible Sir Freddie Laker and sent me this lovely reminiscence of pitching Laker Airlines.

Freddie Laker, Jr., is currently Director, Digital Strategy at Sapient and is heavily immersed in digital ad biz. His own blog is here. Here's Robert's original email to Sir Freddie's son:

Back in the late 70s, I was a young group head at Chiat/Day in Los Angeles. Your dad and Jay, both being bright, pioneering mavericks were a perfect fit, and Jay won us an opportunity to pitch the Laker Airways account.

Jay assigned me and my little group to develop the campaign. We came up with something that was a hit internally, so I started preparing for the big presentation day.

Now I had been in the business long enough to have met with clients on a regular basis (even scary guys like Ernest Gallo). And I'd presented many campaigns to existing clients. But, I'd never been the creative lead on a new business pitch before and was uncharacteristically nervous. Hy Yablonka, Chiat's first creative director and a partner with Jay and Guy Day bucked me up and convinced me that I was more than ready to make a pitch.

At the appointed hour, the Laker delegation arrived. Because Laker was a small smart airline and not a big dumb one, there were only three people: The head of marketing. A second person probably his assistant. And your dad. Sir Freddie Himself.

The usual preliminaries and setups were attended to by our marketing guys and media. Then creative stood up. Me.

I pitched the campaign which was built around the kickoff ad billboarding the theme: "Cross the Atlantic without getting soaked."

The campaign, in addition to a collection of cheeky full page newspaper ads and outdoor featured a very simple spot. It featured a
spokesman-- I think we proposed your dad, standing in the aisle of a 747. He said essentially, "When you fly to London on the old line airlines, they give you this nice cushy seat. So do we. They have lovely stewardesses. So do we. They give you two nice meals. So do we. They get you there in 6 hours. Us too. So why do the old line airlines charge you three times more than Laker ? I don't know. Why are you paying it?

CUT TO SUPER: Laker Airways. Cross the Atlantic without getting soaked."

Well, Sir Freddie, unlike the usual poker faced prospects in a pitch was wonderfully effusive. He loved the campaign. He was highly complimentary to all of us. And, in fact, he tried to give us the account right then and there.

It was only the intervention of the prudent head of marketing that prevented a hand being shook on the deal in that room. Marketing reminded your father that they still had two or three other presentations to see. Your dad, obviously not one to pull rank, deferred to Marketing's ministrations.

In the event, other considerations intervened and we did not get the account. And my recollection is the winner did not mount a campaign as cheeky as ours.

But, I have to tell you, I have had a very fond spot in my heart for your father ever since. He was so obviously a lovely man. He had the courage to act on his instincts. And the great good will to show his true feelings in a business meeting and not worry about hanging onto his negotiating leverage.

Sir Freddie Laker gave a 30-something kid one of the most wonderful moments of a career that has enjoyed some pretty good days. And he made about the most pleasurable and long-lasting impression upon me of any person I've ever met in business.

I'm sure my experience is emblematic of moments enjoyed by many, many other people in their dealings with your father.

I can see why you think about your father every day. I think about him with regularity myself. And only met him once.

With best regards, and a salute to your father's memory,

-robert c

Roger Livingston

Roger Livingston

It was pointed out to me by Jonel Brown that the collection of photos from the C/D 40th Reunion contained no photos of Roger Livingston. Chuck Phillips happened to have one (thank you much, Chuck.)

Remember that the photos of the reunion are NOT posted on this website because of bandwidth limitations. They are posted on Shutterfly. Click here to see them.

Roger was the head of the Seattle office.

Addendum: Chuck Phillips wrote me tonight to say, ""head of the seattle office?? roger was one of the titans of west coast advertising in the 80's... he bought out jay and created the livingston company which became one of america's most award laden creative shops. his campaigns for alaska airlines, people's bank and pacific northwest bell are hall-of-fame classics. roger was also an accomplished competitive sailer who designed, built and raced a boat ("lobo") which won a slew of races including the internationally acclaimed san francisco big boat competition. his crew there was the same "stars and stripes" crew that would later go on to win the america's cup back from new zealand. and you know what they call "heads" on sailing boats."

January 06, 2009

Rondi Shouse

And a big howdy to Rondi Shouse, who also worked in the Seattle office.

January 02, 2009

Jonel Brown

(Click on photo to see it in a slightly larger size.)

What a great surprise to receive an email (and a donation to the site) from Jonel Brown, who worked in an office many people forgot we even had: Seattle!

Says Jonel ....


Since you don't have much feedback from the Seattle Chiat Day office I felt compelled to share this very old photo. This was a raft trip taken by almost the entire Seattle office in 1981, we rafted down the Snoqualmie River. And it was a LOT faster and higher than anyone expected and we had quite an exciting run. Our guide fell into the river as did several others! I'm pretty sure Roger would not have been pleased to lose half of his creative & account teams to the river! Some folks from those days pictured here; (in no particular order) Jerry Box, Jim Copacino, Brian McKenna, Rhondi Shouse, Sharon Teal, Darlene & Ted Smith, Mark Chernansky (sp?), Lee ?, Beth ?, Tammy ?, Someone here must have a better memory for names, I can remember the people so well!

And I sent you a donation with my thanks for keeping this site going!

Thank you, Jonel!

If any of you out there can remember any of the names of the people pictured here, please let me (Steve Alburty) know at the email address at the top of this site's masthead.