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Almost Australia

Blast it! I have a whole story planned about the Simpsons. Jeff Simpson was the CFO of Mojo in Australia, which Jay bought in his disastrous acquisition frenzy.

Unless you were in involved in the Mojo acquisition, you never got to meet their amazing CFO, Jeff Simpson, or his wife, the spectacular Julie Simpson, or their children Adam and Clair, who are all grown up. I will provide details.

I also have a piece coming about David Butler, who has a colleague relative you will all recognize. But first I have to get something I have on my chest. I posted it on Facebook earlier tonight. (The Simpsons and Dave Butler are more important to me, but I had to respond) And thus:

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Saturday, June 21st, was "Jay/Day," the day those of us who worked for the brilliant, quixotic man Jay Chiat, founder of Chiat/Day Advertising, were supposed to go out and repay Jay's many kindnesses to US by doing something caring for anyone in need of the type of inspiration Jay inspired in all of us. (These are the tenets: http://www.jayday.org/jayday.html)

Instead I found myself being kicked out of a FB group run by Laura Sweet, who also worked at Chiat/Day. She runs her own page on Facebook and the topic for the day was "The Open Office." Jay was notorious for believing that creativity came out of chaos, and so he was an early proponent of the "open office," in which the lack of doors was thought by him to inspire free form creativity. Some hated it. Others loved it. (I can't tell you how thrilling it was that I, a peon in 1977, got to meet some of the eventual icons of the industry, all because I could walk by their office and say "hi" when they were not busy.)

But others, admittedly, were not advocates. Some hated it. I think it was a problem in LA because the employees had been used to Frank Gehry's wonderful warehouse. But the "Binocular" building was much more problematic because the building already existed and had to be retrofitted. People had to be squeezed into tight spaces. The New York office was a different story. It was designed from the ground up by the great architect Gaetano Pesce. It not only didn't have any doors, it didn't have any offices. It was a mish-mosh of cafes, small workstations, "bubbles" (small conference rooms) and an area for personal lockers where you kept your personal belongings. It was quite an adjustment. It took months for people to calm down. But in the end, we sensed the overall experience was not the nightmare people had expected.

(True story: when Omnicom bought C/D and Bill Tragos from TBWA took over, he demanded his OWN bathroom. Eve Luppert, our HR director and (along with me and Laurie Coots) was one of the implementers of the Virtual Office was outraged. Remember how colorful the resin floors of the office were? Gaetano built Tragos his own bathroom. But the colors of the resin of the floor? Brown and yellow. I don't think Tragos ever got the joke.)

I am saddened that former colleagues (or some who had bad "open office nightmares" elsewhere), like Laura Sweet, Rich Siegel, Becca Morton, Diane Pirie Cockerill, Brad Gantt, Paul Stenquist, Brian Jay Miller, Melanie Monteiro, and Christie Cordes, are so bitter. (I'm even more sorry that Laura Sweet chooses who she wishes to allow to comment or not. Jay would have a conniption.)

I personally, will ALWAYS be grateful that I worked for Jay Chiat. He challenged us beyond our ability to be comfortable with his ideas. And he would be MORTified (get it? "Morton" was his real first name) that some of you use snarkiness or banishment to debase his achievement, or silence those, like me, who tried to achieve his dream. At least HE TRIED.

Steve Alburty
Chiat/Day, 1977 to 1995

P.S. J.K. Rowling wrote "Harry Potter," with her daughter by her side, in a pub. (It's now a Chinese restaurant.) Talk about powers of concentration!

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