The Story of Ray Markman – Part 7
Friday, 3:45 pm
Loop Lonagan is out somewhere looking for another bottle of $50 scotch and I’m alone with Alexander Harbinger PhD, getting his slant on the Ray Markman story. Alex looks fit—all six foot five of him—but I wonder what experience he has boxing. The match is just a little over an hour away so I put it to him.
He brings himself even more erect in his chair. “When I vas a boy I attended a special school—what do you call it ven you live at—ah yes—boarding. It vas a boarding school. They taught all ze boys to defend themselves.”
I try my best to hide my misgivings, pull out my phone and get Bill Blaire on the line in two rings. “It’s me. Got something going here. A.H. – Boxing match.”
“Harbinger?” Reception isn’t so good in this building and Bill Blair’s punch drunk voice breaks up but I make out the gist of it: “Dat guy’s so big—prob’ly pound the poor schmuck to a pulp.”
I watch my words because Alex is right across from me. I don’t want to shake his confidence even though I don’t think he stands a chance. “You and Loop were brought up on the streets of Chicago.”
“He’s goin’ up against Lonagan?”
“Right. Union League Club.”
“In duh main ring?”
“This is private. Probably use a squash court.”
“How much time I got?”
I look at my watch. “The match starts in an hour and fifteen.”
“No way. You gotta be crazy.”
I pause. He’s right. How do you teach a guy to box in an hour? “Listen Bill, just warm him up. But don’t wear him out, okay?”
“Yeah, send ‘im over. I’ll be dare in ten minutes.”
“Thanks.” I put away my phone. “Alex, why don’t you head over to the club right now? Bill Blaire’s waiting. Ever meet him?”
“Yes at an MIT event.”
That makes the wheels spin in my head. What does Bill Blaire find to say around a bunch of MIT alums? With an involuntary shrug, I dismiss the thought.
The big man rises to his feet and gives a little bow—just his head. “You vill come?”
“I’ll be there.”
He smiles then marches out my office door and I drop my gaze and study the creases on my shoes. The guy’s gonna get killed.
1000 New Ideas
Left alone with my files and my thoughts, I shake off the coming fight and consider what I know about Ray Markman’s time in advertising. I need to focus.
He once advised me to watch the TV show, Mad Men, saying that’s just the way it was. So I watch it—the entire first season. Seems more like a soap to me with plenty of angst and a lot of airtime spent on infidelity. I can’t picture Ray in the role of the cold, unprincipled Donald Draper. But here and there, I see some amazingly straight descriptions of how the game of advertising worked. The general atmosphere, the specific duties, the pecking order, the predatory culture, the crass exploitation of everything—especially women.
I shake off the thoughts and read though the file on Ray’s time at Leo Burnett—his dream job—and come up with something fascinating.
He up and decides that their huge account, the Philip Morris Company, isn’t doing enough about creative new products. He decides their marketing department isn’t set up the way it should be. Can you wrap your brain around that? A lowly account manager at an advertising agency is about to tell a huge corporation how they should go about their business. And that’s just what he does.
Ray’s team comes up with 1000 new ideas for products. A thousand! Out of all those come five products that they actually end up marketing. The big one is the 90mm cigarette—Virginia Slims. The usual cigarette at Philip Morris is only 65 mm—practically a butt. The longest is Pall Mall at 85mm. Virginia Slims is longer and slimmer. Since it’s so long, it must filter the smoke so you inhale less of the bad stuff, right? Well, that’s what people believe back then.
Ray’s team looks at all sorts of changes: length, circumference, taste, flavor, style, aesthetics, filtration, health additives, burning quality, smoke quality, freshness, choice of tobacco, dimension and shape of the carton, quality of the pack. They even create a new paper. A really terrific campaign.
I recall my own mother smoking those things.
Ray’s doing a lot more than advertising here. He’s doing the product development and marketing for Philip Morris.
And it started with a thousand new ideas. He’s gotta be having the time of his life.
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