On The Way Forward, MadMensch Takes Us Back

Howie Cohen is partner and Chief Creative Officer of The Phelps Group in Santa Monica, California. He’s also a Clio Hall of Fame honored copywriter famous for Alka Seltzer’s “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing” and “Try it, you’ll like it.”

As you might imagine, Cohen has some stories to tell and now, thanks to the launch of MadMensch, he has a place to tell them.
Here’s one yarn about the time he rented a house on Fire Island with a large group of Manhattan ad people.

Riddle: How many copywriters and art directors did it take to rent one Fire Island house? In the summer of ’66, the answer was twenty. There were 12 guys and 8 girls and all of us were fun loving, aspiring advertising hotshots in our twenties. My friend Jay was dating one of the girls and they were “hot and heavy”, which everyone knew because the bedroom walls were very thin. One Saturday night, Jay was lost to the world in a deep drug haze after experimenting with marijuana and some mysterious blue pills. His girlfriend was obviously miffed and decided to join us for a romp on the beach. A bunch of us ran down to the ocean, threw off our clothes, and jumped into the water, laughing and splashing and mooning each other. When we got back to the house, Jay was still conked out on the floor. That’s when his girlfriend had a bright idea. Let’s take off all our clothes again, stand directly over Jay with it “all hanging out”, and wake him up. We did. And when Jay woke up his eyes practically popped out of his head. He said something like “Wha…huh?” and passed out again.

Imagine, if you can, being naked in front of your co-workers for any reason. Hard to imagine other than in a nightmare. There’s a reason we refer to the 1960s as the creative revolution. Even though the copywriter-art director tandem is a thing of the past now, let’s never lose that spirit and the will to take risks, experiment and let it all hang out (proverbially speaking).



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.