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Booknotes Memories (3): The Advertising Years

Pampuzac and Soter, 1970s.Pampuzac and Soter, 1970s.MY OWN FRENCH CONNECTION

Wherein My Advertising Success with the Renault Dauphine Car Soon Involved Me with a Number of Other French Products, Promotions, and People, Particularly with French Ad Man Marc Pampuzac


These memories were written by George in 2008.

It was early ’60s Madison Avenue––and no, there was no such phony appellation as the current TV’s “Mad Men” in use then. During our ad agency presentation to prospective French client Renault, my name-dropping of Proust (“Who the hell is Prowst?” had asked the account executive), as well as some dollops of well-pronounced high school French phrases may have been what turned the trick, and I was seen as the “savior” of an important new account in an era when small European cars were transforming U.S. city streets and highways.

The New York Art Directors Club selected the resulting Renault ad campaign as the gold medal winner of 1961 and, before you could blurt sacre bleu, in the coming decades I was involved in a series of French accounts: Air France, Peugeot, Royal Air Maroc, Parfums Stern, Gauloises Cigarettes, even repeated jury membership on the Cannes and Venice Commercial/TV Film Festivals. Whee! Oui!

Most importantly, I formed a lasting business-partnership/ friendship with Renault’s Marc Pampuzac, a unique etoile de la publicite at a momentarily arid moment in the French advertising world. Marc who had spent some time in a US ad agency felt about New York (“Eets where good Frenchmen go when they die.”) as Wilde had famously said good Americans (me?) felt about Paris.

During the next decade our business-friendship thrived, particularly after Marc emigrated to Manhattan. We became a kind of extended famille with assorted children and respective wives part of the intercontinental mix. Francine, Marc’s wife soon became a French advertising star in her own right, heading a French offshoot of the American Wunderman agency, pioneering direct mail techniques in France.

Through the years, we all exchanged visiting rites (“No hotel. We have extra room.”), enjoyed a Greek Island private yacht holiday, were indeed an intercontinental intergenerational family. And tempus, in its often nasty way, fugited on. In the next decades, Marc, died prematurely, and our advertising careers, as is their wont, slowly melted away. Yet we remained an even closer extended family with regular visits here and there.

What’s the point of all this? Peter Soter, trying to keep his retired Dad busy, asked me to concoct a monthly morningside booknotes newsletter a sample of which you are now reading. When an e-mailed copy went off to Francine in Paris––quelle coincidence!––it turned out that her daughter, had almost simultaneously inveigled Francine, also retired, to do a monthly newsletter for the bookstore of a friend! (Le Bleu du Ciel in Ariège in the South of France.) For our Francophone readers, we attach her review from their December 2007 issue, mostly because Julius and Isaac, its two LA heroes, are both cinéastes et communistes––a rare enough juxtaposition to bear some noting.

From Francine Pampuzac’s review: “Julius et Isaac by Patrick Besson–Le 4 Septembre 1959, des amis demandent à Roger Launay d’aller à Orly chercher Isaac Wirkowski. Il vient assister à une réunion du parti communiste. Et cet Isaac n’est pas banal. Il va raconter sa vie avec un humour terrible. Cinéaste et communiste à Los Angelès, McCarthy ne va pas le rater. Son ami Julius, lui aussi communiste et cinéaste mènera sa barque différemment. Voilà un très bon bouquin. Le style est vif, le personnage d’Isaac très attachant. Ecrit en ’92, il est réédité régulièrement.”