What Industry Insiders Talk About When They're Talking Turkey
NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- With Thanksgiving just over a week away, it's time to grab your Martha Stewart turkey recipes, polish the good silverware and prepare for at least one day to spend time with family and get away from work.
Unless your family members all work in the same business -- which happens a lot in the media and marketing industry. So Ad Age thought it fitting -- given this time of year is all about family and togetherness -- to let some industry folk tell us about what they do for Thanksgiving.
The Zinczenko brothers
One's the group publisher of Field & Stream, Outdoor Life and Shot Business. The other's the editor in chief of Men's Health. So when Eric and David Zinczenko gather their families for Thanksgiving you'd expect an alpha-male sort of affair. You don't know the half of it.
Eric and wife Allison (who founded consultancy Z Marketing after years in publishing), host dinner and the table always includes wild turkey and venison that the Bonnier executive has "taken from the field" with his bow. David brings wine from his personal collection.
"Before dinner ends, table talk always turns to who is running the largest men's brand here in the U.S. or who is up in business," said Eric. "I tell everyone at the table even when Best Life was combined with Men's Health, Field & Stream and Outdoor Life had more combined circ and more traffic -- and we aren't even trying to reach all men as much as we are hunters and fishermen."
According to Eric, David typically fires back with, "We should talk W-2s."
That's when the competition really starts. Eric reports the smack-talk usually builds up to a "move-the-furniture" wrestling match. This isn't hyperbole. Both men wrestled competitively growing up. David wrestled in college and Eric has studied Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
We'll just let Eric describe how that goes down: "Years ago, I broke two of his ribs in front of his Hollywood girlfriend," says Eric. "The following year he came back and tapped me out in front of my wife ... with a devastating wrist lock that sprained all the tendons in my wrist.
"There are few rules other than no punches to the face because of his damn 'Today Show' appearances, although while we are fighting I might smack him around a little and say, 'Eat This!' or 'Show Matt Lauer what your older brother gave you!'
"But make no mistake, my brother can fight."
How long will the tradition continue? When they're running a business together, it will be time "to maybe put an end to the nonsense," Eric says.
John McGarry would never have had the Rolodex that's the envy of the ad world if it weren't for his wife Gilda. His college sweetheart started at Y&R before Mr. McGarry and urged him to get into the business too, even landing him his first interview at the agency. Needless to say, he got the job. Today, Mr. McGarry sits at the helm of McGarryBowen, and his son, also named John -- but known by most as J-3 -- leads digital at the Dentsu-owned agency.
Says Mr. McGarry: "The entire family gets together, including my wife, my two children (J-3 and Vicky), my four grandchildren, my daughter-in-law, my son-in-law and his parents. Occasionally, we are even joined by out-of-town family friends like Marilyn and Frank Anfield. Frank was a colleague of mine from my Y&R days.
"Throughout the day, we talk about everything from the grandkids to football, to hockey, to politics, to red wine and yes, ultimately advertising and our latest work. Everyone is usually very interested to hear about the latest campaigns, websites and pitches. The grandchildren join in the conversation, too -- when we're talking about Disney and Crayola work. It is truly because J-3 and I are so proud of what we do day in and day out, we can't help but share with those closest to us."
The Difebo sisters
Ask Deutsch New York CEO Val DiFebo and sister Vanessa, director-client services at EuroRSCG, what the holiday is all about, and they say washing dishes.
"Let's face it, in a big Italian family, the holidays are all about the food. We start talking about the Thanksgiving menu (as if it will change or can be influenced) in early July," says Val. "And then we land, as if by surprise, with the same menu we've enjoyed for scores of years.
"Our 'immediate' family of 30 people all arrive on Thanksgiving with their appetites and boxes of Italian cakes and pastries, all of which land on the ironing board, our mother's idea of the perfect dessert holding station. After the meal, the girls -- that would be us -- team up to do the dishes by hand. ... Because 'No machine can wash dishes better than four girls and a box of Brillo.'
"The 'girls' get stationed, elbow to elbow for hours, washing, drying and talking -- talking about life, the kids, men, work (this gets juicy when Vanessa and I are teamed up) ... what matters, what doesn't, what makes us laugh. In full regular cycle or pot-scrubbing cycle oblivion, we forget that in the other room people are flipping channels between football and opera. They role-play their favorite commercials for us (seriously), and usually by dessert someone is giving a concert, their voice well oiled with tannins."
Tiffany and David Rolfe were creatives at Crispin Porter & Bogusky in Boulder first, a married couple later. "We spend most of our Thanksgivings with Dave's family," says Tiffany. "They're a very active and competitive family. Food-wise we stay pretty traditional but tend to add, of all things, crab -- and it's yummy. And almost every year we enjoy the rain and splendor of the San Juan Islands outside of Seattle. There are a lot of games and competitions that happen -- ping-pong tournaments, frisbee golf, baking contests. I'm not the most athletic person, so I contribute by showing the ads I've been doing," says Tiffany. "At least I can beat them at that."
Marc Brownstein is president of Philadelphia-based Brownstein Group, which was founded by his dad, Berny, in 1964.
Berny is still chairman chief creative officer, and brother Michael is exec VP-chief revenue officer for Meredith. So, according to Marc, "In our family, there's little difference between social and business. Lines are totally blurred."
Even in the course of regular life, the clan talks business. A lot. "We chat by phone, email (grandparents, siblings, spouses, grandchildren all copied in), on vacations, at sporting events," says Marc. "I get regular text messages from my college-age kids about ad campaigns -- just recently they texted about the new Lebron Nike TV spot and the 'Really?' Microsoft spot."
Thanksgiving is just an extension of that, but a little more intense. "We go around the table, and give 13 Brownsteins three-minute updates; takes a while, but it's awesome."
Call it your traditional American-German-Ukrainian-Chinese Thanksgiving. Pippa and Ron Seichrist, who are the founders of the Miami Ad School, live on the beach but spend Thanksgiving at a turn-of-the-century farm they restored on the border of Georgia and North Carolina.
Says Pippa: "Our holiday isn't just a day. It's a whole week and includes different parts of our extended family, friends and students. When I think of Thanksgiving my mouth waters for turkey and cornbread dressing, my grandmother's recipe that has been passed down for over 150 years. Ron's parents are from Germany so his traditional holiday foods contain vinegar.
"We adopted a little girl, Olya, from Ukraine when she was 6 years old. ... We were able to find and adopt her 13-year-old biological brother Andry. ... The day before Thanksgiving we make a huge pot of red borscht ... to snack on as we cook the Thanksgiving dishes.
"This holiday one of Ron's sons, his Chinese wife, and baby will join us along with her mother who is visiting and doesn't speak English. . . . We also invite students who aren't going home to their own families to join us. ... I'm curious how many more languages will be spoken around our table this year."
"Do we talk turkey on Turkey Day? Well, it's hard to escape discussions related to the business," says Gary Reisman, principal of NewMediaMetrics, and brand-attachment measurement service, who is married to Donna Speciale, president-investment and activation and agency operations officer at Mediavest USA. "Of course Donna is in the business, and my father-in-law is a media director in Vegas and well known in the industry. His name is Mike Speciale.
"But truth be told, we try to keep the discussion light and without details. We all work so hard -- who the hell wants to talk about the details on Turkey Day?
"Donna and I host Thanksgiving each year and usually have about 15-20 people over ... so we are working our tails off that day -- cooking, opening wine, drinking wine, etc., etc., until we collapse. The conversations are much lighter -- about the 'turkeys' we've met all year and the ones we'd like to tell 'Go stuff it!' -- in or our out of the business."
The Postaers have infiltrated agencies all over the country, as well as China. Mom Chistine Montet is a retired art buyer (FCB, Chicago), while father Larry Postaer is the founder-chief operating officer of Rubin Postaer Associates out in California. Their sons are all in the business. Jeremy is a group creative director at Microsoft on Bing at JWT, NY; Daniel is director-integrated/sports marketing at DMG, China; and Steffan is chairman-chief creative officer at Euro RSCG in Chicago.
Says Steffan: "My mother and father divorced when I was very young so we didn't have the all-in Thanksgiving." But he and his brothers did get together with their father and "talking shop was sort of a safe zone between men, the sons usually speaking about something interesting we were working on. ... Dad might ask a few questions, wondering aloud why we were doing it this way or that. He was critical but seldom judgmental. ... Looking back I recognize we were all speaking in deference to our father. Looking for validation, that sort of thing."
The Berger brothers
Brandon, 35, and Jason, 30, are, respectively, the head of digital and media at MDC Partners and co-founder of Kids at Play, an entertainment media and brand development firm. The two grew up in the Chicago suburbs and now live on opposite coasts, Brandon in New York and Jason in L.A. But on Turkey Day, they meet in the middle and visit their old haunts the night before the big feast. "When the Berger brothers get together we typically get in a lot of trouble," says Brandon. "It could be karaoke, we could end up at a swimming pool. It's no-holds-barred."
On Thanksgiving, there's little talking about work, except for maybe the obligatory "how's business?" but that's probably because everyone's too distracted by the latest pictures their father, Paul, an architect who worked on some Chicago agency spaces, has displayed around the house. "My dad has digitized all our photos growing up, and they play on flat-screens in our house," says Brandon. "Every time you show up, they are always scrolling and they are all different. And it ends up being a conversation about me sticking my brother in the dryer. With the cat."
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Contributing: Judann Pollack