The Insanity Of Advertising Tells War Stories From A New Angle

I’ve read a lot of memoirs written by ad folks. “Mad Men” has inspired a whole slew of folks to tell it like it was. But there are two good reasons to recommend Fred Goldberg’s The Insanity of Advertising: Memoirs of A Mad Man.

First, because Fred’s an account guy. And he’s not, thankfully, writing another paean to the 60’s.


Before running San Francisco’s Goldberg Moser Oneill, Fred worked for Y&R and then Chiat/Day (whose SF office become GMO). He clearly displays what so many account people lack: An understanding of both how to present and sell great creative that’s strategically-based, along with the guts and moxie to handle difficult client relationships.

And so we’re treated to story after story about clients and ad campaigns large and small, from the notorious Gallo Winery to Apple, Worlds of Wonder (Does Teddy Ruxpin ring a bell, Gen Xers?), Dell, Esprit, California Cooler, and many others. Along the way, there are triumphs, setbacks, and a ton of great “so that’s how he handled that” anecdotes that serve as great lessons for anyone who works in the biz.

Since Goldberg’s experience largely focuses on the 70’s-90’s in LA and San Francisco, we also hear what most other ad memoirs don’t mention: How high-tech companies like Apple, Dell and Cisco employed a scrappy, non-Madison Avenue ethos to their advantage. It’s a refreshing perspective that manages to capture a slice of the early years in an American industry that truly changed the world.

By reading The Insanity of Advertising, you’re basically spending a few evenings listening to Goldberg hold court. There’s no grand narrative, no major business lesson objectives. Just a great retelling of the kind of advertising industry war stories most of us in the business love to hear. Just when you think you’re ready to go nuts over your clients, The Insanity of Advertising will certainly provide an enjoyable, crazy diversion.

Special thanks to Lorna Garano Book Publicity for providing me with a review copy.



About Dan Goldgeier

Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. Dan is also a columnist for and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.