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Monday, January 28, 2013

TRANSITIONING FROM EDITORIAL TO AD SALES

Less than a month after settling into my new position at Reuben H. Donnelley, Carol's father, Milton, approached me for a private chat. Milton was a successful accountant with a client roster that included several major Wall Street brokerage companies. He resembled Robert Montgomery, the movie star of the 1930's and 1940's. He began our talk with a question, "What are your intentions?" I hesitated, and he elaborated. I guess he was worried his 19-year-old daughter would become an old maid. He was looking for a commitment. In early February, I cashed in the rest of my War Bonds and my Bar Mitzvah money, and her father took me shopping for a ring. I guess he wanted her out of his hair as quickly as possible. We were  engaged on Valentine's Day in a romantic French restaurant with checkered table cloths in New York City,  and set our wedding date for October 26th.

The  wedding celebration, after the ceremony, was a lavish event, well orchestrated and held at the Ambassador Hotel at 52nd and Park. It was a strictly formal affair, tails and all. I had ten ushers, including uncles, college roommates and friends from New York. My relatives,  who made the trip from Cleveland, were in awe when my four-year-old sister, the flower girl, dropped  rose petals in advance of the bride's entrance. The wedding was filmed, later converted to tape and is now on  CD. We honeymooned in Puerto Rico and The Virgin Islands for ten days, the very first time each of us had been out of the country.

Carol and I returned to work at Vogue and Reuben H. Donnelley. We had rented an apartment in Brooklyn, several blocks from her parent. We had a total income of $150 a week, our rent was $116 a month.    Without a car, we took the subway to get into the city. In January of 1958 I received a $10 a week raise and Carol was hired by Franklin Simon as a retail copywriter at $75. We were now solidly middle class.In April,  , one of those detours in the map of life unexpectedly came along. Bill Crompton, the  ad sales director for Sports Age Magazine, came into my cubicle with a proposition. "Our annual directory is coming up in June, and I need someone to help sell unit ads," he explained. The magazine, I had learned, had sales reps who worked on a 20% commission and wouldn't be bothered with selling insignificant advertising. I hadn't sold ad space since I was editor of my high school newspaper, but when I was told I'd receive  20% on anything I sold, I jumped at the chance.

For two weeks I stayed on the phone calling  manufacturers listed in the directory One inch was $30, two inches, $60, and a three inch ad was discounted at $80. The more phone calls I made, the more proficient I became. I used empathy as a tool. "We're nearing a record response, and we need two more inches to  set a new record," I'd tell each  person I called. It worked. The directory had its biggest issue ever, and I sold more inches that the entire rep team. The total was $32, 000 and my commission check was a  whopping $640, more than six weeks pay. I was pretty proud of myself. The next week, with management's blessing, Crompton asked if I would like to sell full time. I was torn, having planned on a writing career.Then a fellow
fellow editor said the magic words, "That's where the money is."

The next thing I knew, I was studying the rate card, and was surprised by how low the rates were. In investigating the competition,  there was no question that we were a distant fourth on the list of  publications serving that market. I had to move to a bigger magazine, one with higher page rates, larger circulation, and number one in its industry. Come September, an ad in the  New York Times caught my eye. I called the phone number and made an appointment for an interview. I met Ken Grogan for the first time. The starting salary was $7500 a year. During  three interviews, I also met John Ryan and Jack  O'Neil. I didn't get the job because I hadn't attended Notre Dame. Instead the hired Jack Keirnan, another guy who rooted for "The Fighting Irish." He was also ten years older with more experience, I was told.  So I plodded on  and two months later Grogan called me in the evening. He asked "Are you still interested in working here?" (In Wednesday's blog, I begin to write about my 30 years in the printing industry.)