Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Adventures In Advertising: A Tale Of A Too Nice Office

Once upon a time, when ad agency employees had offices, some were quite nice.  This is the story of one such office.

Years ago, there was a very good ad agency called Kenyon & Eckhardt. K&E was in what was then the Pan Am building (now Met Life).  Almost every employee had his or her own private office. The offices were large, spacious and fairly elaborate.  The most senior executives had office suites which included full bathrooms and showers. In those days this kind of opulence was fairly common.

When I was made a senior vice president, I was given a $5,000 allowance to decorate my office in any way I wanted.

My space became very lush and comfortable.  I had an Eames chair, two very comfortable white leather couches and a thick green carpet.  Everyone liked to hang out in my office.

Many mornings when I came in, I noticed things had been moved.  A picture frame was not quite where I remembered it to be.  The pens that were on an incidental table next to the Eames chair were moved to my desk. The lamp on my table had its shade askew. Nothing important or significant.  I barely gave it a thought and figured that it was the cleaning crew.  

I was working on a new business presentation and had a very tight deadline.  At the time, I was living in Westchester and one morning decided to make a very early train.  So I took the first one out, probably about five in the morning. 

When I got up to my office forty-five minutes later, I found my office door closed and, more surprising, locked. I never locked my door.

In those days we all had secretaries.  Rose’s desk was right in front of my door and I knew that my office key was in her top drawer.  I retrieved the key and unlocked the door, all the while thinking that the cleaning people must have accidentally locked my door.

But when I entered my office I was greeted with a huge surprise.  There on one of my couches was the media director’s secretary, sound asleep.  Linda was on her back, stark naked and so asleep she did not hear me enter.  Her clothes were folded neatly on the other couch, her trench coat was hung over my desk chair and right by my desk was a small suitcase. There was an alarm clock set for 6:30am on my desk. I immediately took her trench coat and placed it over her and gently woke her up.  I don’t know who was more embarrassed, she or I.

I was not sure what to do, but I left the room to give her a few minutes to compose herself and get dressed.  It turns out that she had been living in my office for a couple of months!  She chose my office because it was the nicest and most comfortable at the agency.  And she said my office was nicer than any apartment she had and since she had lost her lease and was effectively homeless, it was better at K&E, where she could be quite comfortable – she could even shower there.   

No one knew she was doing this. 

I had no idea as to what I should do.  Of course, she begged me not to tell anyone.  I decided to tell her boss, the media director, who was also a good friend.  He and I decided to go to the head of operations who was also a lawyer.  He explained the liability and told us that she had to be terminated.  Then he broke out laughing.  He realized that she had been showering in his office because he had noticed that the shower walls were wet each morning.

I am sure that other nice offices, both at K&E and elsewhere, were put to more usual uses after work, but I am sure this was the most unusual.


  1. Such a lovely, sucky story. Everything about it was amusing and made perfect sense...until three senior execs (you, the media director and the lawyer) decided she had to be fired. Not given a raise so she could afford an apartment. Not offered a room at anyone's house. Just...fired.

  2. I hear you, Steve. This incident happened many, many years ago and I have thought about it often. She should have been fired. No one knew, not even her friends so no one could offer her a room. As the lawyer pointed out, there was considerable liability for the agency. She was also trespassing. Firing her was the the only choice;

  3. Well then. That's a new one for everyone being screwed by agencies. "Sorry, can't work after hours, don't want to be arrested or fired for trespassing".

  4. i won't comment about your comment. But at the time this happened, working hours were quite different then they are now. By 7 or 8pm everyone had gone home, but most people left by six.

  5. I remember hearing of a guy at Grey who's wife threw him out an he lived in his office for over a year.

  6. AdMomma24 - I have heard that one, too.

  7. Paul, have you ever thought of creating a site to capture (anonymous!) agency stories? There's got to be a way to monetize (yuck, hate that word) all the insanity.


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