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STILL UNFLAGGINGLY FELKER ON GREAT AD COPY, DESIGN-AND FAST EXITS

By Published on .

He's out there somewhere on the West Coast at the other end of the telephone line, and he is unmistakably Felker. There is the charm-with, at 67, still some of that sweet sound of Webster, Mo., in his voice. There is a mental periscope coming up, scanning around, faster and keener, looking for art and color and the clashing of social forces.

There is Felker: "It's very powerful, putting great writers on the case of great stories, because you've got a distinctive voice. This was developed at Esquire because we had a three-month lead time. So what we said was, `We'll get the novelists to go out and be reporters.' We got Norman Mailer, James Baldwin and Simone de Beauvoir. If we had Mailer writing, we figured, nobody else would think like that. Therefore you maintain your distinctiveness. It takes a lot of talent, of course, but that's what makes it work."

On advertising as trendometer:

"My feeling is that American advertising is very much like a dew line. [Do we have those things anymore?] If you've got the right tools, you can spot which way the culture is going. Magazines have not figured out what advertisers do routinely: giving a psychographic profile to a product."

On what's to learn from ad writers:

"Magazines are still too linked to newspaper culture. What I have done in a class I'm teaching [at the University of California, Berkeley] is bring in a top guy from Goodby Silverstein and have him show our magazine students how his agency solves creative problems. The students have a wonderful time getting inside how you sell something in southern California vs. in northern California. These students are eager to understand what Holier Than Thou journalists re-fuse to learn from these ad techniques. And they're just that-techniques. They're not perversions of journalistic standards. At agencies like Goodby Silverstein, they think things through very carefully."

On sources of his designer's eye:

"I was trained originally as a photographer in the service, the Navy. I spent seven months going to photo school. And then I worked at Life magazine. I was a reporter. But that meant you had to write scripts for any assignment you went on. That was my entry to journalism. As for what we did at New York, it was consciously designed a certain way by Milton [Glaser]. We wanted to make sure not to make things too fancy, so people wouldn't think we were playing tricks on them. We did not want to look too elaborate or fussy. Clarity was the goal. And it had to be easily done because we had to do it every week."

On fast exits:

"Look, I've enjoyed this, but I gotta get into San Francisco and teach a class."

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