The good old days …

Just looking at this photo has brought back all kinds of great memories. It was back in the 90’s — ’93 I’m thinking — and I was at an Ogilvy worldwide creative directors’ meeting. Jim, who’s  in the shot with me, was the creative director in our LA office.

He and I had met a year or two earlier, in New York, at David Ogilvy’s 80th birthday bash. Which is a whole other story. We (Jim and I) got along like a house on fire and we became fast friends.

This time we were in Berlin. The hotel we stayed at (can’t remember the name of it for the life of me) was spectacular. Fabulous feather sleigh bed, heated marble floors and towel rack in the bathroom, a grand spiral staircase that was worthy of a Ziegfeld showgirl.

The food, however, was putrid. Boiled fish floating in some kind of grey liquid or pieces of mystery meat floating in grease (also grey) at every meal, including breakfast. What I would have done for even a bowl of cornflakes.

That’s why Jim and I were cracking up. These meetings usually lasted four days and this was the last day. We were walking down the hall from the conference room to where we were being served lunch and I turned to Jim and said, “If we get fish again today I am just going to sh*t!”

Sure enough, the stench hit us well before we got to the door. We were probably slap happy by then because the two of us started to howl with laughter, we were still laughing when we sat down and we laughed for at least another 10 or 15 minutes. Tears were streaming down our cheeks and at one point, weak from laughter, Jim threw himself down on the floor and started rolling around, clutching his sides.

Everyone in there was laughing with us, including the waiters, but we were the only ones who knew why we were laughing. Needless to say we ate nothing, but we did drink wine. Lots of wine (but to be fair, the few restaurant meals we had were very good).

Business was officially over and the rest of the day was devoted to sightseeing. At some point Jim spotted a McDonald’s from the bus we were on. He could not contain his excitement. He grabbed me, and literally begged me to go there for dinner with him. Begged. So of course, I said “yes.”

Never has a quarter pounder with cheese tasted so good! We totally pigged out.

In all seriousness, I loved those meetings. It was really wonderful to get to know colleagues from all over the world, see the work they were doing, hear about their challenges and goals and share experiences and war stories. We really bonded with each other and formed long-lasting friendships. And the exchange of ideas was incredibly valuable — it’s just not something you can put a price tag on.

Back then, Ogilvy was known for its global meetings and worldwide and local training programs, which were incredible. I learned an absolute ton and I will be forever grateful. When I think about it, they must have cost an arm and a leg to put on, not to mention the cost of attendees jetting here, there and everywhere. I don’t know if it’s affordable nowadays.

Like I said at the outset, “the good old days.” Lucky, lucky me to have been around for it.


12 thoughts on “The good old days …

  1. Great story. Yes, those of us who were around when companies had generous business travel and entertainment budgets were very fortunate. I worked for Revlon who held their holiday parties at the Sherry-Netherland and Rainbow Grill in NYC. Meetings held off premises were grand. I don’t think we’ll ever see that again. I remember the day the company replaced first class air travel with economy. The executives were aghast. T&E was all downhill from there.

    • I agree with you, I don’t think we’ll ever see those days again either. It’s a crying shame, not just because of the T&E budgets, but also because of the working conditions we had, which were so much better than they are now. We got proper training, we got raises, there were no hiring freezes or massive layoffs. This is a totally different world.

  2. Yes, lucky you and all else who attended….wonder why the food served was not brought up…German food is usually very good with a great variety! But then, you did not go for a cooking class! And from your memories of those special times, well worth the suffering over non gourmet meals! Xoxo, Barb

    Sent from my iPad


  3. I can only imagine your comments on the feedback forms handed out at the end of the conference!

    Your description of the “grey” liquids reminds me of a Chinese restaurant I used to enjoy – the menu needed some editing – If a dish included gravy, the word “grey” was used. Fortunately, the cook was not acquainted with the Berlin chefs’ style of food prep!

    • Lucky you, I wish we’d had your Chinese chef cooking for us. And considering we were a roomful of “creatives” we could easily (and happily) re-written and re-designed his menu 😊

  4. Never was lucky enough to attend an Ogilvy global meeting, but I did get to travel a bit while working at Ogilvy and McCann, and now for Omnicom. A few years ago I was picked to attend Omnicom U for a leadership session and it was fantastic to meet colleagues from all over the world. Heads of offices, other creatives, strategists, client service leads. We tried to keep the momentum going with a LinkedIn group but it fizzled with everyone’s focus being pulled into their day jobs at their own agency. I really wish the big holding companies would see the value that those meetings bring. The ideas exchanged and the relationships built are well worth the travel expenses.

    • I don’t think they had Omnicom U when I was at BBDO, wish they had. I agree with you — it’s a shame holding companies don’t invest in these meetings anymore. Sure we had a good tine, but we also took it very seriously and worked hard; and I always came away from them knowing a lot more than when I’d arrived.

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