About a month before I got fired from Ogilvy for doing work that wasn't an ugly Tik-Tok video or a phonus-balonus 'event,' and for making the agency too much money from clients who were deemed too big and therefore unhip, I showed up high--very high--for a client meeting.
I should clarify. I don't do drugs. Except for a few peer-pressured moments, I never have.
I have enough problems with my equilibrium without subjecting myself to drugs.
On this particular day I had a first meeting with a senior client and I didn't want to miss it.
I also had minor surgery on my left hand. Ergo, the narcotics. But I had to make the meeting.
We were all sitting around a conference room table. The Client. The CEO of the agency. An account person or two. A project manager and three senior creatives, including myself.
The agency CEO turned to me--there must have been a gap in the agenda--and said without introduction, "George, why don't you start?"
For as long as I've been in the advertising business, I've always prepared notes before meetings. What I intended to say. The reasons why we did what we did. Why I believed it would work. It's best not to go into meetings naked and five minutes preparation yields dividends.
But on this occasion, I had sped high from a taxi to a conference room and had no such composure. Nevertheless, I was on the hook.
I think I gave the best seven or eight-minute speech of my life. Not only did I tear up afterward, everyone else did too. My introduction went something like this.
"I should apologize from the outset. I'm a little high right now. I'm not as cogent as usual. I had minor hand-surgery at New York hospital and the procedures were way more baroque than I thought they'd be, medication-wise. So, if I'm a little rambling or incoherent, that's why.
"I have to tell you something about the people in this room who are working on your business. Working on a challenge like yours--well, I've had a long-career and this has been the biggest challenge I've ever faced. But, damn, it's fun.
"Like Churchill said, we have nothing to give but blood, sweat, toil and tears, and that's what we're doing. Because everyone in this room loves the work, loves the challenge, loves what we're trying to do and would run through hell in a gasoline suit to get it done.
"There are a lot of lofty titles in this room. There are ten dozen case-studies we could trot out and ten ten-dozen awards. But none of that matters. Because what's in this room isn't just an assortment of advertising people, it's, in a non-gendered way, a band-of-brothers.
"We look out for each other. We cover each other. We push each other. We demand of each other, because that's what we do. Because we believe in each other and we believe in the work we're doing.
"There's a lot of bullshit and blather and patented methodologies about how work gets created and the special ways agencies do things. In fact, this is my 13th agency, and I think I've heard them all.
"But none of them is worth a hill of beans if the people behind that methodology don't care for, even love you, the client, the assignment, and maybe most of all each other.
"This isn't right here in this room, like the rest of the industry where we're lusting after trophies. Everyone in this room knows that all that glitters is not gold. What we're lusting after is your resuscitation. Your renewal. Your resurrection."
"George?" someone said, "You're high and you said all that? That was fucking amazing."
It's also what holding companies don't understand.
A month later, almost to the day, I was fired.