Mad Men

The Real 'Mad Men' Diaries: Jerry Della Femina

Admen Recalls How A Big Bluff Saved His Agency

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What do you do when your advertising agency is broke and about to go out of business? Throw an expensive party, naturally.

That's what legendary adman Jerry Della Femina did in 1967, when Della Femina Travisano & Partners was failing. Instead of shuttering the shop, he and Ron Travisano pooled their last $11,000 and put on a glamorous bash at New York hotspot L'Etoile. The idea was that if the agency looked succesful, people would believe it and sign on.

"It was a crapshoot, but we had no choice," he recalls today.

The odds were in his favor. The fete brought in three new clients and saved the agency. Mr. Della Femina, of course, went on to become one of advertising's brightest stars, doing unforgettable campaigns for Blue Nun with Stiller & Meara and creating that wily liar Joe Isuzu.

He also later became a restauranteur himself, operating the highly successful Della Feminas in the Hamptons until it was sold in 2012. In this video, Mr. Della Femina offers a tip about how to pack a restaurant, as well.