Lee Garfinkel & neil Drossman

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"I told him what I thought, and in spite of that, he came back."

-Neil Drossman

Garfinkel on Drossman

What's your most vivid memory of having Neil as a mentor?

When I first started looking for a job, I called up Della Femina and naively asked to speak with a creative director. They put me through to Neil Drossman who was nice enough to take my call. Little did I know at the time that Neil was one of the most talented writers in the business.

What did you learn from him?

That basically you could sell and entertain at the same time.

Do you feel you've applied what he taught you to the way you mentor creatives you work with now?

Absolutely. Neil showed me ads that he had written for Teachers Scotch and Emory Air Freight that were funny and smart. You couldn't disagree with the logic. Today, when I critique work I look for an inarguable point of view. Unfortunately, a lot of work being done these days is funny, but wrongheaded. When you dissect it, it doesn't ring true or make sense. I try to push people to be smart before being "creative."

What does it take to be an effective mentor?

To be honest and fair with your criticism. Also, it's easy to say you don't like something. It's much harder to explain why and give ideas on how to make an ad better.

Drossman on Garfinkel

Do you remember first meeting Lee?

It was probably in the late '70s or early '80s and I was at Della Femina. I don't remember exactly how he came to me, but he was a standup comedian who I guess wasn't quite as big as Milton Berle or Lenny Bruce. He was interested in advertising, he brought some work up and there was some interesting stuff and some stuff that didn't work because he didn't know much about advertising at the time. So basically I told him what I thought, and in spite of that he came back.

He said you showed him how to put a book together.

It's an interesting thing. Putting a book together is different from being necessarily a terrific ad guy. There are certain things you should do in a book, which you may not even do when you're in the business. There are certain rules-knowing how I look at books. When the guy's in my face, I'll kind of be very interested, but when it's left to me, I've got to be dragged kicking and screaming to look at it. You really have to open somebody's eyes with your book the first time they look at it because there's not going to be a second time.

Do you consider yourself a mentor?

No. But I've done it with a number of people. I kind of like doing it, people did it for me, so I gotta return the favor to some degree.