Tuesday, June 30, 2015

An Advertising Story: How Carl Ally Won Piper Aircraft

I love this story.  It shows that if you want something badly enough, you can make it happen,. I told this story recently and was encouraged to post it because it is a great story; right out of Mad Men. Carl Ally himself told it to me.  It is fun.

Ally & Gargano was a wonderful agency.  Bigger than a boutique and smaller than the big international agencies.  It was in business from the early sixties through the early 1990s. Originally called Carl Ally, it became Ally & Gargano in 1976. They were ultimately responsible for some of the great campaigns in advertising history.

Carl Ally was a pilot.  When he found out that Piper Aircraft was seeking a new agency he desperately wanted the account.  He tried writing and calling the client but to no avail.  Finally, out of frustration, he flew without an appointment to Piper’s headquarters, then in Western Pennsylvania.  He landed his plane at the Piper airfield.

When he arrived, he asked to see Mr. Piper, the chairman.  The receptionist asked if he had an appointment.  He said no.  Mr. Piper refused to see him.  Carl told the receptionist he would sit in  reception until Mr. Piper showed up.  He patiently waited all morning.  By lunchtime he had befriended the receptionist and asked her to give him a high-sign when Mr. Piper appeared.
At some point, Mr. Piper walked through the lobby on his way to lunch.  Carl approached him and introduced himself.  He was unceremoniously told he would not be seen.  Mr. Ally told him that he merely wanted ten seconds of his time, and could make his presentation in the lobby.  Mr. Piper agreed, probably out of politeness and with some annoyance.  He asked Mr. Ally to wait until he came back from lunch.

An hour later, when Mr. Piper returned, Carl Ally said to him, “I will only take ten seconds of your time.  Please walk over to the window with me.”  The window looked out on to the Piper airfield.  Carl pointed to his plane and said, “See that plane?”  Mr. Piper identified it as one of his and Carl said to him, “That is my plane.  We are the advertising agency that handles…(I forget what important and well known accounts the agency handled at that time, but it was an impressive list of accounts that everyone knew the work.).  I want to handle your business because I own and fly your product.  If any of the agencies pitching your account has an owner or senior executive that owns and uses a Piper product, you should give them your business.  But if not, we should handle your account.”

He was given the account on the spot.

For those of you who do not know the agency, you know their work.  Ally & Gargano subsequently created Fedex (Fast talking man), MCI, Volvo, Life Magazine and introduced Fred the baker for Dunkin’ Donuts.  But Piper was always Mr. Ally’s personal favorite.


  1. Great story, great agency, great people.

  2. Ditto on Vince D'Onofrio's comment. And even greater days ahead as Ally & Gargano. But does this mean if I buy a Chevy or Corvette tomorrow, I get the GM account? LOL, Bill Crandall

    1. Bill, it means that if you own both a Chevy and an advertising agency with the quality of work that Carl Ally had, and you drive to Detroit and wait in reception for Mary Barra, you will not get the account. But you may get arrested. ;-).

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  4. Fantastic story, Paul. Thanks for sharing.

    Alan Loren

  5. I worked for Carl for 14 years. I would do anything for him except fly with him when he was piloting. I figure if he flew a plane the way he drove a car I would be dead, not in a crash but of a heart attack.

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