Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Adventures In Advertising: Getting Fired At A Christmas Party

 Because it is that time of year, I thought I would post two Christmas party stories.  One was a couple of weeks ago and was about a terrible party.  This is the second, but has a much happier ending.

Years ago I worked at a great agency, McCaffrey & McCall.  Both Jim McCaffrey and David McCall were wonderful to work for and with..  I was a Senior Vice President and ran a couple of accounts. Jim had announced his retirement.  The big mystery was who David would hire as a partner and president.  Tradition was that the agency made big announcements as a surprise at the agency annual Christmas party. It then closed for the holidays.

McCaffrey & McCall was actually one of the very first agencies to close between Christmas and New Year’s.  The party was generally given a day or two before the holidays began; it was a big, festive party, always given at a popular restaurant/club.  There was a lot of drinking, followed by lunch and whatever announcements the agency was going to make (promotions and other big news) and the party ended sometime in the afternoon.  Drinks were continued at the bar. When it was over, everyone went home for the holidays.

Jim McCaffrey had announced his retirement some months before.  David McCall, in a not so surprising move, announced the new president at the luncheon.  And with that, he introduced, Bobby Statz as the next president of the agency.  Everyone laughed.  Bob was not an advertising executive, he was not even in advertising.  He was well known to most of the agency as a comedian.  Bobby did sales meetings and the like and had performed for my clients many times.  Bob, as I recall, had an act where he was always drunk (maybe an act, maybe not) and he would memorize names of executives and insult them or otherwise abuse them in his routines.  Bob was immensely funny. But he was certainly not a president – on this day he was unshaven and poorly dressed (he actually looked that way most of the time – and it was long ago, when everyone, particularly senior executives still got dressed up for work).

Of course everyone, even those who did not know him, got it immediately that it was a joke. He managed to insult most of the senior executives and he also made funny and outrageous promises for the coming year – as I recall, a four day work week, free transportation to and from work in limousines, all raises would be 15-20%, etc.  Everyone laughed and enjoyed the performance.

After his performance, the party broke up and many of us adjourned to the bar.  Bobby joined us.  And then, while we were standing there, a man who was a media estimator approached Bobby. (Do any of you remember media estimators? They existed in the days before computerization and were responsible for costing out client media and reconciling spot TV performance vs the estimates.  They kept track of discounts, make-goods, etc.) We’ll call the estimator Andrew. He was a man in his forties, wore a toupee and was one of those clerks whose face everyone knew, but no one really talked to because he kept to himself.  He came over to Bobby and introduced himself and congratulated him with a big handshake.  We thought he was doing a gotcha on Bobby.  Statz put his arm around him and said something like, “Ah, yes, Andrew, I’ve been wanting to talk to you.”  He then took Andrew over to a corner.  They apparently had a good conversation which lasted a few minutes, but we were too busy drinking and having fun to pay any attention.

Five minutes later, Bobby came back to the bar.  Someone asked him what he had said.  Bobby said, “Oh, I fired him.”  We all laughed and went on with the party.

On the first working day of the New Year, after a week off, I was in, as always, at about 8am.  I was generally the first one in.  But on that day, I heard a lot of unusual noise coming from a nearby interior office (this was long before open space. Everyone had an office, or at least shared an office with one other, at most).  I walked over to the office to see what was happening.  There was Andrew in his office putting things in boxes.

I asked him what was going on.  With a straight and serious face, he said, “I was fired.”  I asked him what he was talking about.  He said, “Mr. Statz fired me and told me to take the holidays off but to come in today to clean out my desk.” I gulped in shock and couldn’t believe that he actually thought it was true.  Suffice to say, I was horrified.  I explained that Bob Statz was a joke, and Andrew told me I was wrong.  I realized that this poor guy had spent the entire holiday thinking he had been let go. OMG, what to do? I told him to stay put and not do anything or go anywhere.

I wasn’t sure what to do, but as I was leaving Andrew’s office, I saw Don Goss, who was an EVP and the head of client services.  He was my boss. I flew into his office and told him what had happened.  He was at the bar with us all after the party.  Don couldn’t believe what had happened.  Well, he couldn't believe it until he poked his head into Andrew's office and saw him packing his things.  He told Andrew to stay put and he suggested to me that we go right up to David McCall’s office.  Like us, David was always in early.

David, at first, didn’t believe us because it was truly impossible.  We had to convince David that he had to do something. David was horrified; he was also the world’s nicest guy. The three of us went down to Andrew’s office.  On the way down, David confessed that he had no idea what to do. Neither did we.

David explained to Andrew that it was a total miscommunication and apologized. He immediately gave him a huge raise (I don't remember how much it was, but Don and I thought Andrew was now the highest paid media estimator in the city).  Then David did the most incredible thing.  David asked Andrew to call his wife.  David took the phone, apologized to her for having a miserable holiday and then invited her to have dinner with Andrew at the Four Seasons followed by theater, with a limousine to pick her up, take them to theater and then take them home, all as guests of the agency. He told her about the raise and then told her that everyone loved her husband (David barely knew who he was).  

It was an amazing on-the-spot recovery.

It is simply an awful story with a lovely ending and I think with his raise, Andrew became the highest paid media estimator in the business.

May your holidays be wonderful and filled with love.  And may you all get a great raise.


  1. Wow, what a story. That poor guy (I remember estimators, but don't tell anyone; it's just between us, Paul). What a classy move by David. I believe behavior like David's is now referred to as 'old school.'

    1. If that is "old school", I will take it every time. David McCall was a very class act.

  2. Yeah, that's what I meant classy behavior has become old school.

  3. Wow, what a story, Paul. Thank you. Now, as I wipe few tears from my eyes, on to the really awful story that I haven't read yet!!

  4. Quite the opposite of the story I related!

  5. Hey.. can I take this as part of my blog... sanjeev kotnala. Com where you would find a lot of Indian stories under FUN IN ADVERTISINFG... I may do a bit of tinkering here and there if that's OK with you...

    1. Thank you for asking. You may not use my copyrighted material and it cannot be changed in any way.


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