My career has taken me many places professionally and into many diverse and challenging situations. My answer to these challenges has always been to represent ideas visually (the words invariably follow). I think visually and the progress of an idea forms first as a kind of storyboard in my head. Where many see a flowchart, I see cartoon panels. Needless to say, this infuses a lot of what I turn out with humor. “If you can make your point with humor, and it’s appropriate tonally and strategically to what you want to express, why do anything else? Mike has a unique ability to do this.” That comes from Norman Goldberg, Chairman of Goldberg/Marchesano Advertising, a shop that was for me, advertising boot camp. The agency offered me the opportunity to pitch (and win) the IKEA account, establishing the Swedish retailer’s foothold in America. My other responsibilities included Trak Auto, The Greater Washington Board of Trade, Vanity Fair Corporation and many others. G/M was a dusk to dawn shop and people who wanted to move up adopted the nocturnal habits of the principals. In the late hours, new business pitches were developed, a chronic activity at Goldberg Marchesano. Who needs sleep?
From there I joined the “Boutique Revolution” going to work for MF&A Advertising, a physically small shop with big intentions and at the tender age of 35, I became a creative director. In short order, we were winning new accounts and awards: Smithkline Beecham, Fresh Fields (now Whole Foods) World Classics Cola and Cookies, Hawthorne Suites and a host of other clients in the banking, healthcare, hospitality and communications industry. At Abramson Associates, I oversaw the merger of that DC agency with another – Ehrlich Manes, which brought together under one roof Geico Insurance, Paramount Pictures, Fokker Aircraft and Children’s Hospital. With Prospect Associates (American Institutes for Research) I got to use my skills in an entirely different area of effort – advocacy and awareness. Prospect fought the good fight for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, State of Maryland Anti-Tobacco Initiative, and The Bethesda Naval Medical Center.
As a founding member of LMO Advertising I helped young men and women decide how to begin their adult lives by offering the choice of military service in The Army National Guard, The Air National Guard and The Coast Guard. That work is continually rewarded by these three branches of our uniformed services in the most meaningful way: they all continue to choose LMO when contracts are renewed and have done so since 1995.
I’m glad for the many associations I’ve had and virtually all of them are intact. I still work with just about everyone. I call them, they call me – it’s because of one belief best illustrated in the movie The Godfather. That film is loaded with great lessons and the central lesson is that Michael Corleone was wrong when he said to his brother, “it’s not personal Sonny, it’s just business.”
All business is personal. I’ve never had a good business relationship – client or colleague – that wasn’t based first in real warmth and respect, and that’s where friendship grows. In the context of that, a freer flow of ideas take place and things get done. I can’t think of an exception.