I was not part of advertising's Camelot - the
Advertising Council - in l942. I was part of the U.S. Army
and not a very happy part. I was "The Kid in Upper Four,"
if any of you remember that famous World War II ad showing
a youngster in his BVD undershirt lying in an upper berth
in a blacked-out troop train; arms behind his head on a pillow,
his eyes wide open, wondering where he was, and where he might
be going. I don't mean I really was that kid, but he spoke
for me and millions of others like me as his words inspired
magazine readers to buy War Bonds. I didn't know where that
ad came from but I know I wanted to thank the person who wrote
it for sharing my loneliness, fear, and homesickness, and
for helping me realize that someone out there cared. I still
thank that copywriter. Not only for what he or she did for
the GI's morale and my own, but for introducing me to the
world of advertising's Camelot. I never dreamed that I would
someday be part of that world.
Eighteen years later I was back in New York,
having a ball as VP for Advertising at the Chase Manhattan
Bank. We were in the throes of turning that great corporate
bank's image inside out, making it a "people's" bank with
the memorable campaign that helped change all bank advertising,
"You have a friend at Chase Manhattan." Ted Bates was our
retail agency, Compton did our corporate work and Doremus
our trade publications. Ted Bates, then running his agency
and Bart Cummings then running the Compton Advertising agency,
were very active in the world of advertising's Camelot, the
Advertising Council, from its beginning, and encouraged me
to serve as the Volunteer Coordinator (a.k.a. Advertising
Manager) for one of the Council's new campaigns on the Balance
of Payments. Presumably I knew something about that arcane
subject because I was with a famous bank. What I didn't realize
was that George Champion, chairman of Chase, (David Rockefeller
was president) was opposed to the way the government was trying
to solve the problem, and here I was, one of his trusted staff
executives, working as a volunteer for Jack Connor, former
head of Merck & Company who had become the Secretary of Commerce,
the Ad Council's 'client' (non-paying of course), for the
Balance of Payments Campaign.
To George's credit he never remonstrated with
me and I was grateful that disruptive conflicts of interest
simply did not exist between business concerns and the Council's
pro bono publico efforts. Of all the difficult problems I
later ran into as president of the Council, I never had one
bit of pressure put on me to toady to a commercial interest.
On the other hand, the do-gooders who emerged in the succeeding
years of domestic strife, the anti-nukes, the anti-government,
anti-business protesters, would never accept this assertion
on my part. Surely any creature of the commercial world as
the Council was, would have to be a patsy for business. But
the work we did was substantially in the public interest.
It spoke for itself and was our apologia pro vita sua.
Simply put, The Advertising Council provided
the government and private philanthropic organizations like
the Red Cross with action provoking advertising that moved
Americans to take positive steps to help them-selves, their
communities and their country. The campaigns were created
free of charge by advertising agencies. Massive free time
and space were contributed by the media; newspapers, magazines,
trade papers, out-of-door posters, radio, and later, television.
Lots of planning, organizing and financial support was needed
to implement this extraordinary work. American corporations
and its leaders volunteered their time and resources resulting
in campaigns like Smokey Bear, CARE, the Peace Corps, the
United Negro College Fund, and Crime Dog McGruff, hundreds
in all that were monumentally successful.
But in a practical sense the Balance of Payments
campaign was a failure, no fault of the volunteer agency,
Ted Bates, which under the creative tutelage of Rosser Reeves,
Jerry Gury and Don Booth, did great work. It featured that
masterful comedian, Jack Benny, in black and white television
Public Service Advertisements (PSA) asking an off - camera
Secretary of Commerce plaintively, "Is my dollar, (taking
one out of his bulging wallet) is my dollar as good as gold?
Tell me, please, Mr. Secretary." And he got a good answer.
But delightful as the advertising was, it didn't work, because
the Ad Council had neglected its own criteria, which said
that the public had to be able to do something specific about
the problem presented in the advertising. It was a dilemma
in 1965 just as it is today, as the Council decides what campaigns
to accept and what to turn down as un-doable if there was
no action message.
One morning in early l966 I was invited to breakfast
at the Union League Club by Don McGannon who was then president
of Westinghouse Broadcasting and vice chairman of the Ad Council's
Board. There were two other Ad Council directors with him
that I knew slightly- Ed Ebel of General Foods and Clay Bookhout
of TIME. I figured I was going to be fired as the Volunteer
Coordinator on the Balance of Payments campaign. But the scrambled
eggs were good and so was the company. I didn't realize that
I was meeting with the selection committee to recommend a
new Council president, since Ted Repplier, its first president,
was about to retire. Don asked me if I would accept the position
if it were offered to me. Totally surprised, I picked my face
out of the scrambled eggs and said I would, pending the approval
of my wife, my immediate boss at the bank, Gene Mapel, who
was an unmitigated genius and head of marketing, George Roeder,
Executive VP, David Rockefeller and George Champion, President
and Chairman, respectively. I mention all these men to indicate
that leaving the bank as an officer in those days was almost
like leaving the priesthood. You just didn't do so cavalierly.
I had one other stipulation - that I would not
be elbowing out either of the Council's two vice presidents,
Allan Wilson or George Ludlam, who had been my bosses during
my previous tenure and whom I greatly admired. Nor would I
be doing so with the two executives who had been on a par
with me. Hank Wehde or Gordon Kinney, who had stayed at the
Council for so many years when I had left to accept that great
opportunity at Chase Manhattan. I was assured that the Board
had deter-mined to go outside for a new president.
Ironically, I had been hired by the Ad Council
as Campaigns Manager right after leaving the Air Force in
l954. Before I resigned my com-mission, while stationed in
the Pentagon. I had been a 'client' of the Council, non-paying,
except for the out-of pocket production costs, per usual Ad
Council practice. The Council had saved the Air Force's bacon
when it accepted a campaign to recruit civilian volunteers
for the Ground Ob-server Corps. Up to that time, l952, the
Air Force had tried vainly to recruit people to spot enemy
aircraft, which would have come at us from the Soviet Union.
The Korean War was still dragging on. Both the Red Chinese
and the Russians were supporting the North Koreans. Should
conditions worsen even more, our country was vulnerable to
air attack, particularly from the east and from over the North
Pole. Our radar was spotty; aircraft could come in underneath
it anyway, and we had only one or two air defense bases on
our northern border from Maine to Washington.
I had learned a lot more about the War Advertising
Council after l942 when I was "the kid in upper four." It
had helped sell billions of dollars worth of War Bonds. It
had breathed life into the image of "Rosie the Riveter" as
the ideal for women to get into war work. It convinced the
American people to conserve energy, save fats, keep war information
"un-der your Stetson", because "a slip of the lip could sink
a ship", on and on, hundreds of campaigns that included one
still going today - Smokey the Bear, saying, "Only you can
prevent forest fires," and saving millions of acres of forest
in the process.
Originally conceived for fear of the Japanese
firing shells on west coast forests, Smokey became a peacetime
problem solver and a children's icon, with one volunteer advertising
agency, Foote Cone and Belding, still going strong after almost
sixty years. What a manifestation of my awe, my admiration,
and my affection for the thousands of volunteers like Lou
Scott and Jim Felton who inhabited the world of wonderful
wordsmiths who did this kind of pro bono publico work - and
whose counterparts do so today!
When I finally came face to face with the people
at The Advertising Council, the word "War" having been dropped,
I was working in public relations at Air Force Headquarters
in the Pentagon. It was l951 and I had risen from buck private
to Lt. Colonel. I was 3l years old and most of that rank was
attributable to the decision I had made in l945 to remain
on active duty while all of my friends and millions of others
couldn't get out of the service fast enough. We had demobilized
over l0 million men - the Soviet Union - none. I had become
convinced as I sat in on top level briefings for the press
that we would eventually go to war with Russia and even though
it was not the popular thing to do, I stayed on and never
regretted it. Two years later, my boss, "Rosie" O'Donnell,
then a Major General, encouraged me to apply for a regular
commission in what had become the United States Air Force,
under the Unification Act of l947. We were now on a par with
the Army and Navy. I was then a captain, the lowest officer
rank allowed in the Pentagon. "The Kid in Upper Four" had
grown up in a hurry.
The Iron Curtain had descended in Europe and
the Cold War was upon us. Less drastic than World War II perhaps,
but the kind of crisis the Ad Council was uniquely qualified
to help alleviate. And so in l95l when I was assigned to the
job of promoting the Ground Observer Corps, the first thing
I did was to accompany my new boss, Major General Sory Smith,
in calling upon the Ad Council for help.
We flew their key people to our air defense
facilities all over the country and even up to North Bay,
Canada, for briefings from the Royal Canadian Air Force and
visits to their air defense facilities, all to show how really
vulnerable we were to aerial bombing. When you fly with people
on non-luxury, stripped-down military aircraft sitting on
the parachute someone strapped on you when you got on board,
you develop a sense of camaraderie.
The rapport I established with Council President
Ted Repplier on those flights never left either of us. He
became so devoted to the Air Force he encouraged his son,
Teddy, to apply to the newly founded Air Force Academy and
young Ted wound up as a hot jet pilot and an excellent officer.
I in turn, became devoted to the Ad Council. Any advertising
group that would go to such lengths to learn what the client's
problems and objectives were so that its staff could take
on the creative challenges effectively, had to be A-okay.
Our deal with the Ad Council was clinched when
I lined up General Hoyt Vandenberg, then the Air Force Chief
of Staff, to fly up to New York to address the Council's Board
of Directors at its monthly meeting at the Hotel Pierre. As
luck would have it, the weather was horrible that day. All
the New York airports were socked in and General Van would
not exercise the privilege he had of coming down through the
clutter of air traffic to make his landing ahead of the others.
His crew radioed the LaGuardia Tower and they patched General
Smith, who was on board, through to me via telephone to the
hotel anteroom. I got the bad news that it would be at least
two hours before they could possibly land.
In desperation I said to my boss, "If they can
put you through from the LaGuardia Tower and I can hear you
now, why can't we have General Van give his speech from the
plane to the tower by radio, with the phone company picking
it up on a special line they could set up directly from the
tower to the hotel. There it could be patched into their public
address system and into the meeting room." The speech was
scheduled for one hour from the time we were talking, but
since only one person could transmit at a time, we had to
have General Vandenberg begin speaking in one hour and continue
to the end without knowing if he was getting through. Now
mind you, we weren't talking about a blase radio reporter,
we were talking about the Chief of Staff of the United States
Air Force. If it didn't work he was well aware of my name,
rank and serial number. My fate, as someone once said was
on the line!
Somehow in the next 50 minutes I was able to
reach the head of Air Force Command Communications in the
Pentagon, who gave AT&T a ton of business. He gave that great
company the picture: get the La Guardia Tower to brief the
Air Force radio operator aboard the aircraft; have the AT&T
people set up a line to the hotel, have the hotel patch through
to the meeting room and at l200 hours be ready for General
Van to start speaking. I then passed the word to the presiding
chairman in the next room. It sure got his attention and the
entire Board of Directors was transfixed, watching the clock
as all other business was suspended and some hotel mechanics
fussed with the PA system. At twelve o'clock the general's
voice came through like magic over the drone of the C-54's
engines as they circled New York in a holding pattern.
It was high drama indeed. Never before (or since),
had a major speech been delivered from a military aircraft
circling the city to a hotel meeting room. To this day I don't
know how it really worked, or why, but it did. Bingo!, the
Council Board voted to accept the Ground Observer Corps recruitment
campaign in spite of an already crowded docket. The volunteer
advertising agency, Ruthrauff and Ryan, was quickly named,
the media responded generously and within three years over
a million Americans, young, old, male, female, forest rangers
and lighthouse keepers, who-ever, volunteered to stand in
fire towers, on hilltops and rooftops for at least four hours
a week, spotting aircraft and reporting them to air defense
command control centers throughout the country, with fighter
aircraft being dispatched when no identification could be
Of course the Russians never attacked, but on
a couple of occasions came pretty close and those civilian
observers were out there, trained and ready to spot any intruders
thanks to some talented persuaders from Madison Avenue.
The Ad Council's potency as a communications
force had been so well established, it's not surprising that
President Roosevelt, before his death, suggested that it be
continued in peacetime. That he did so was, of course, a silent
medal of honor to the world of Advertising's Camelot.
That chapter title was a book by a seasoned
Washington hand, George Allen who really knew a lot of presidents
compared to me, The only reason I knew the ones I did was
because of the Ad Council, with one exception. That was Harry
Truman and the reason I met with him in his office and then
in the Rose Garden for photographs was because I had written
a theme song for the Community Chest's drive in l947 which
Kate Smith sang on a network broadcast on the steps of the
Treasury Department with the United States Air Force Band.
We had a group picture, a huge one which I have framed in
my basement rec room. My song's title was "The Red Feather,"
which was the Community Chest symbol. Mills Music published
it and as far as I know, never sold a copy. But they did a
band arrangement, Kate Smith sang it, along with "When The
Moon Comes Over The Mountain," and we all got into the White
House to meet President Truman.
Kate Smith shows President Harry Truman the
"Red Feather" musical score written by Capt. Robert Keim,
left, conducted by George Howard, right. I never met President
Eisenhower but hurrying down a Pentagon corridor one day with
his arm around General Al Gruenther, since Ike had just been
recalled from Columbia University to head up NATO, he almost
ran me down. So I did meet him in a way. But when I got to
the Ad Council, I met with and worked out some things with
Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush
(the elder) and their aides. This process occurred intermittently,
beginning practically the day I showed up at the Council.
On a day to remember, the phone rang. My secretary was out
so I picked it up.
"Keim," I heard, "this is Kintner." Kintner?
Of course, the president of the American Broadcasting Company,
a member of our Board. Wrong, I quickly learned. He was now
an assistant to President Johnson, a right-hand man it appeared;
he knew his importance and to put it mildly, he was fit to
be tied. I won't include all the profanity in what followed,
but I'll give some hints. "The boss is really upset." That
was the title most White House staffers used when referring
to the president. "What about?" I asked. "Those goddam Eisenhower
commercials, that's what about!" I rolled my eyes to heaven
without the slightest clue. "The Eisenhower commercials? What
Kintner's voice was normally gravelly. Now it
was rasping. "Don't you watch what's on the tube? Well if
you guys don't, I can tell you the President does. He's got
enough television sets around him to watch all three networks
at once if he wants to, and he calls me at midnight to say,
Bob, there's another one of those goddam Eisenhower Library
television spots with Bob Hope on again. Where are our Savings
Bonds spots? What's the blankety blank Ad Council doing anyway?"
Now it began to come into focus for me. The
Eisenhower Library people had produced their own television
spots with Bob Hope as the talking head. We had nothing to
do with it and we had no power over the networks or stations
to ask them to stop running the Hope spots. I explained that
to Kintner as best I could.
"Well, I kid you not, THE BOSS IS REALLY TICKED
OFF. He wants you to bring your whole (deleted) Board of Directors
down here and straighten this thing out." I said, "Bob, we
have 85 Directors. That's too many. Let me line up about 10
or so of them who are on our Executive Committee."
"Okay," he grunted, "and another thing. The
Bonds' creative work is too soft. He wants to see something
like the War Bonds advertising you did in WWII. Get the American
people behind the poor bastards fighting in Vietnam." He named
a date and time and hung up.
I sat there. A few weeks on the job and I get
this? A meeting with the President? More likely a confrontation
with that hot tempered giant of a man - the leader of the
free world. I'd heard and read about LBJ's ability to persuade,
or to put it another way - to get his way. And I toted up
the odds. A War Bonds campaign for an unpopular war, getting
more so everyday? Our non-political status shattered? The
media at our throats? There was no way we could do what Bob
Kintner had asked for. A further irony - we had seven agencies
working as volunteers on the Savings Bonds campaign. It was
that important to us. If we were playing bridge, it was our
longest and strongest suit, winning all sorts of awards. It
had been the Council's first campaign in l942 requested by
Treasury Secretary Morgenthau.
Leo Burnett in Chicago was the volunteer agency
handling the Savings Bonds television for us. Their latest
television film spot showed a young boy getting his first
haircut, while the voice-over reflected on our need to keep
faith with him and his country by buying bonds. The photography
was perfect. The camera circled with the elderly barber moving
around the boy, snipping away. It was right out of my own
experience and that of any dad at his son's first haircut.
I had it on my sample reel and it never failed to get applause.
It was Norman Rockwell on film. Soft, said Kintner? Yes, it
was soft. It also sold a lot of bonds.
But the lines were drawn, and we had to go.
I not only invited our officers and key directors on our Executive
Committee but also the volunteer agencies and the networks
who were represented on our Board. When I called Jack Schneider
who was then president of CBS Television, he not only accepted,
but offered the CBS plane to fly us to Washington and back.
Meantime I received a call from the Secretary of Treasury
Henry "Joe" Fowler who was technically our client. He was
obviously embarrassed, knowing full well that his people had
approved our work all along and that urging the public to
buy bonds was one thing but to link it to Vietnam would be
a disaster for us. At the time he was negotiating with other
nations on the development of an international currency. It
was a high stakes business and he told me that like Kintner,
he'd get calls day and night about the Hope-Eisenhower spots
running again, when he should have been worrying about what
was an ill-fated currency anyway. We climbed aboard the Gulfstream
Jet a few days later at La Guardia.
Seated, or rather strapped in comfortable chairs
in a kind of lounge setting, Jack opened up. "Now what are
we doing here again?" I liked him. He looked more like an
actor than a network president and he smiled readily. He was
jamming me a little since he had already been told what this
was about. But I went through it again, trying not to mimic
Bob Kintner. When I finished he said, "So one of us has to
tell the President of the United States, the leader of the
free world, that we can't do what he wants us to do?" I nodded.
"Well, who's it to be?" he asked.
Nobody volunteered. "Well I'm the Council president.
I guess it should be me." My offer was tentative, but to my
unhappy surprise, everyone agreed. In fairness, it really
was my job. I was closest to the scene. I knew Secretary Fowler
and all the people connected with the campaign. I found as
a very young officer, I was more at ease with top brass like
General LeMay than I was with lower ranking officers, figuring
I guess, that I wasn't a big enough target to be dumped on.
I had once cracked jokes with President Truman in the Oval
Office hadn't I? But I knew all too well how different this
was going to be.
Our instructions had been to go to the main
entrance of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, which
we did, only to be told by the cheer-less guard there that
we should go to the West Gate, adjacent to the Old Executive
Office Building. In the 21 years following I made many visits
to the White House and most every time was routed from gate
to gate. At first I thought there was something wrong with
me but finally concluded that the Secret Service just meant
to keep visitors off balance for the hell of it. Nothing like
keeping people nervous about where they were at!
We had all been cleared in advance of course
and our names were each checked off carefully. We were a little
early but it took time and we were clustered at the guard's
desk when behind me came Secretary of Treasury Joe Fowler.
"And who are you?", the guard asked, taking Mr. Secretary
aback. "You don't know the Secretary of Treasury?" I blurted
out? "He's our host for our meeting with the President for
goodness sake." Unabashed, the guard took his sweet time about
it, then waved us in. Everyone in our group was a VIP in his
own right - network or agency president, media mogul, whatever.
But they were all very human and when you're ushered through
the carpeted halls of the White House by no less a person
than the Secretary of the Treasury, it gets to you. This was
no tourist's guided tour. This visit, like my later ones,
was strictly business.
Right to the Fish Room we strode briskly, and
sat down, almost I thought, like a Sunday School class, a
row or two of straight-backed chairs with straight-backed
occupants facing the teacher's empty table up front. Secretary
Fowler happened to be one of the nicest people you'd ever
want to know. He had a shock of pure white hair over a cheerful,
ruddy complexion, rimless glasses that his eyes beamed through,
dressed soberly like the Wall Streeter he had been - every
inch the cabinet officer and confidante of the President.
He welcomed us warmly and graciously praised the Council,
which he knew went back to Roosevelt and Morgenthau days.
He glanced around the room and told us about some of the momentous
meetings that had taken place in this very setting. Nobody
was bored or impatient.
Without warning in strode Lyndon Baines Johnson,
the President of the United States. I said earlier that Vernon
Jordan didn't enter a room, he invaded it. LBJ did him one
better. He took over the room. We all stood up of course,
and as was the custom, applauded him. Everything about him
was big, his shoulders, his arms and hands, even his face
and smile seemed big. After waving at us graciously he sat
down behind the table. He told us again some of the Fish Room's
history, leaning back in his chair, legs out-stretched, thumbs
in his belt rocking back and forth, just as I had heard others
describe such performances. Then he launched into a speech,
more of an oration actually, a monologue not a dialogue. Neither
I nor anyone else got a chance to speak. We heard about the
war in Vietnam and how much our country had at stake, how
the public had to be sold on the importance of getting behind
the war effort like we did in WWII. He invoked the need for
good old-fashioned patriotism and I must say he was impressive
in the obviously sincere and touching way he did it. This
was a Baptist preacher in his pulpit and a darned good one.
Probably the best. But he didn't dissimulate. He wanted a
WAR Bonds campaign and that was that.
He ended abruptly, citing a cabinet meeting
or something he had to go to, saying with a big grin from
ear to ear, that Joe here (an arm around the Secretary's shoulders)
would work out the details with us, spun on his heels, waving
- and walked out. There I was, mentally rehearsing what I
would say and he was gone. My sigh of relief must have been
audible! A head-to-head confrontation with the Big Man had
been avoided! Amid some clearing of throats and scraping of
chairs, Secretary Fowler moved to the front of the room and
said he realized the problem we were facing and hoped we'd
try our best. Leo Burnett offered to work on a new strategy
and share it with the other volunteer agencies for their input.
Again that incredibly decent Joe Fowler shook hands with each
of us, thanked each one and escorted us to the front door
so we'd have the pleasure of walking down that beautiful,
semi-circular drive to Pennsylvania Avenue's iron gate and
Guard House. As he did so he said, "I know you've heard this
from others but to give you an idea of how important this
is to the President, I'll probably get a telephone call at
two in the morning asking me how I thought the meeting went
and to let him know how the new work looked." "My God," I
thought, "how it looked?" There hadn't been time to pin fresh
paper on the drawing boards!
Back in Jack Schneider's jet at National we
were promptly served snacks and drinks. His feet outstretched,
glass in hand, the president of CBS summed up our day at the
White House. Ruminating, Jack said almost to himself, "That
Secretary of Treasury was right out of Central Casting!"
Back in New York and Chicago work began furiously.
I doubt that one out of ten of the agency creative people
supported the war in Vietnam but they were professionals.
They'd been given a job to do and they did it, swallowing
hard. Time passed. It wasn't working. Everything came out
with a political tinge. Probably more campaigns were trashed
than in their experience. Then someone at the Leo Burnett
Agency, digging into Savings Bonds sales data, learned that
men and women in our armed forces bought more bonds proportionately
than any other kind of employees. They had it! Show dramatic
scenes of military people in the air, on the ground, at sea,
but ambiguous as to location- in combat or training? The headline:
"They buy bonds where they work. DO YOU?" This was not the
campaign LBJ envisioned. But it worked its way through clearances
at the Savings Bonds Division. Whether they showed it to the
President before we released it we never heard. Of course
he saw it eventually on the air -but never raised the roof,
as we feared.
As our new campaigns took hold, our visibility
increased, and as our visibility increased our media exposure
for the advertising increased as well.
From the book A Time in Advertising's
Camelot by Robert P. Keim
Book design and graphics by Edward Ziobron
Copyright (c) 2002 by Longview Press
Reprinted with the permission of Robert
P. Keim and Longview Press
Robert P. Keim, Longview Press
Copyright © 2002 Longview Press. All rights reserved.