Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Without Clay Felker, there'd be no Bob Garfield

Barbara Lippert has a wonderful piece about Clay Felker on today, and you really should go read it if you want to remember an era gone by, and perhaps even if you don't. The crux of Barbara's piece is how Felker led her into the world of advertising criticism, a specialty that didn't exist at the time. Says Lippert: "My first review was of a Ralph Lauren print series during the winter. ("You want to wear your best $300 sweater while walking your husky," I said, trying to sound like I knew what I was doing.) ... Clay gave it a whole page--the inside cover. I heard that the competition was literally laughing at giving an ad review so much space in the magazine. ... But before we knew it, our chief competitor had hired a writer to do the same thing." And so it goes. Now, as Lippert points out, everyone, including me, fancies themselves a critic.


Bob Garfield said...

Actually, I was hired originally at Ad Age to do a feature column, and didn't start doing AdReview till months later -- explicitly to counter Barbara's wonderful Adweek Critique.

But Felker figured into my story more directly. As I agonized over whether to leave USA Today for Ad Age, I spent the evening with Clay. He had hired me, on a freelance basis, to supply Adweek with a humor column, and he happened to be at the 4As spring meeting where my agonizing was taking place. He spent hours trying to talk me out of the move; he was sure my future was to be a humorist, not a roving feature columnist as I was for my first four years at Ad Age.

He may have been right, but my feature column was my springboard to NPR, and Ad Review (mainly because it is in Ad Age) became an institution.

As to your headline, I appreciate the thought. The idea of Barbara Lippert as a proto-Garfield is very flattering, but I must point out that it was Ad Age, not me, that gave AdReview its impact. I'm quite certain that if Barbara had been at Ad Age doing her critique, I'd now be an anonymous, second-rate humorist.

Catharine P. Taylor said...

Thanks for setting the record absolutely straight. Good to hear from you.

Joan Voight said...

Some say that Felker's time is over. And looking at many print mags today, that view makes sense.
But the attitutude, sass and irreverence are still alive and well...just mostly on the web.
Here's a toast to all the up-and-comers, who never knew Clay, but are of the same spirit.