Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Mike Tesch.

Mike Tesch was my boss at Ally & Gargano in the early 90s. He was once one of the biggest names in all of advertising. At the time. At any time. 

A creative in advertising not knowing Tesch is like an Art Historian not knowing Caravaggio. A playwright not knowing Shakespeare. A cineaste not knowing Citizen Kane.

That's the way the world is now.  We have an entire political party that knows neither the Constitution and the Bill of Rights nor the golden rule. Right and wrong is flexible. Fair is foul and foul is fair. The battle's lost and won. 

But, lest I get accused of being polemical--back to Tesch.

When Mike hired me I sat in the darkest corner office I had ever sat in. It was like being in the presence of a god. He said to me, "I want this to be the agency where you can be as good as you think you are." 

That's the second-best thing any boss ever said to me about a job. (The best came from Marshall Karp, ECD at Marschalk. "I want you to go home at night and tell your spouse what you did at work."

Mike was just about the most-famous person in advertising then. All those FEDEX and Dunkin spots and Hertz ads. And Pan Am. Advertisements with soul, truth, meaning.

Here's one of my favorites:

And another:

No one knows his name anymore.

Mike's widow Billie befriended me on Thursday. I went through her feed and pulled the pictures below.  I didn't put them in any sort of order because a creative mind like Mike's or a creative career like Mike's is most-often not linear. It's a chrysanthemum of exploding ideas like a misbehaving Fourth of July firework.

It makes me sad. Especially on the heels of the Cannes self-congratula-ton. And the presenter at Cannes who stole one of my ads and used it as the cover slide to a presentation of his. On creativity. Of all things.

Mike was mean at times. Hard. Threatening, though only 5'3".  Temperamental. Unpredictable even.

He burst into my office once. 

I was 30. 

I started sweating.

He showed me a marker comp he just did. A marker comp. McCabe had worked at Carl Ally and everyone had a love/hate with him because of his success at Scali/McCabe. 

Mike showed me his comp and said, neurotically, looking for affirmation from me. "I'm as good as McCabe." 

Borscht Belt beat. 

"And taller."

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