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Refugees From Ad World Find Life--and Happiness--Beyond Agencies

After Jim Weinstein was fired by Chiat/Day from his post of senior vice president, he appeared on a daytime TV quiz show.

When asked his occupation, the executive--who was once the point man with some of the Venice ad firm’s most important clients--said he was an advertising consultant. “If I told them I was an unemployed ad executive, they would have never let me on the show,” he said.

After a six-month job search, the 43-year-old Weinstein abandoned all hope of working at a Los Angeles agency. He began a new career three weeks ago as director of account services for Teleprogram, a firm that creates customized radio promotions. With that move, Weinstein joined a growing number of advertising professionals who are leaving the troubled business for other professions.

“It’s a tragic part of the ad business today,” said Laura Murphy, president of Baeder/Murphy, a Beverly Hills headhunting firm that specializes in ad executives. “We are losing talented people. There may be positions for them six months down the road, but who can wait six months?”

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Mike Trueblood, who nearly three years ago was let go as senior vice president at Bozell’s Los Angeles office, said he doesn’t miss at all the business he was forced to leave at age 57. “It’s hard to miss a business that is turning so many people out with nowhere to go,” said Trueblood, now marketing director for a Los Angeles food broker.

Although many ad professionals were laid off because of the recent industry slump, a number of workers have left the business on their own accord. And they say good jobs can be found outside ad agencies.

Four years ago Pi’ilani Aguiar Culhane realized that she had more independence selling exotic flowers out of her Torrance garage than she had as a researcher at the Los Angeles agency Davis Ball & Colombatto.

At 33, she now owns the Hermosa Beach flower shop Lanai Design. Her former agency happens to be one of her best clients. Meanwhile, she figures that her annual income has nearly quadrupled. “When business is overwhelming, I sometimes ask myself: Do I want to do this the rest of my life?” she said. “The answer is always yes.”

For Anne Saulnier, 30, the choice was perhaps more difficult. She had eight years in the business and was a successful account supervisor at Wieden & Kennedy when it closed its Los Angeles office about 18 months ago. She turned down a big raise and promotion to move to the agency’s Portland headquarters.

Saulnier took several courses in catering and six months ago was hired as a party planner for the Los Angeles catering firm Duck, Duck, Moose. “What I miss most about advertising is the money. But the career change is worth my happiness,” she said.

Many of those who leave the profession quickly discover that the biggest blow of all is the loss of the perks that are immensely satisfying to one’s ego, said Charles Sharp, a West Los Angeles headhunter. “When people leave the profession, the ego can take a real hit.”

Certainly Hugh Duncan, 46, thought about the world he left behind last week when Foote, Cone & Belding of Chicago announced a successor to chairman and chief executive Norman W. Brown. After all, Duncan, who was president of the agency’s Los Angeles office for five years, left the firm in 1986 after declining a reassignment to Chicago to be groomed as Brown’s possible successor.

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“I wanted to remain on the West Coast,” said Duncan, 46, who is now a commercial real estate developer. His Calabasas firm, Duncan Development, has built hundreds of tract homes in Southern California. Said Duncan: “There is life after advertising.”

Kmart Out to Upgrade More Than Just Image

Get ready for a brand-new volley of Kmart ads that boast about the quality of the stores.

Early next month, Kmart will unleash a national campaign of 230 different TV spots, said Peter Hirsch, co-chairman and executive creative director of Kmart’s New York agency, Calet, Hirsch & Spector.

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“This is part of an enormous campaign to not only change Kmart’s image but to also change Kmart,” said Hirsch, in a telephone interview. Kmart and its agency are in the second year of a five-year campaign to impress upon consumers that the stores and merchandise are being upgraded. Hirsch said the agency is filming about 20 ads a week. Many will air within a month of being filmed, he said.

Kmart, which spends about $100 million annually on advertising, will also put up $2.3 billion over the next five years to modernize its stores. “We’re out to change the perceptions of consumers,” said Hirsch. “We want to make Kmart a desirable place to shop.”

Mexican Resort Gives Account to Thompson

After losing millions of dollars in advertising business during the past year, there was finally some good news at J. Walter Thompson’s Los Angeles office last week. It won the account for the Mexican tourist resort Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo that was formerly handled by Saatchi & Saatchi in New York.

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Although the annual billings for the new business were not revealed, it is believed to be about $2 million.

For Thompson, which also handles advertising for Mexicana Airlines, the win appears to represent a natural pairing with the airlines. Thompson has used Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo as a location for shooting Mexicana commercials for years. Rich Jarc, senior vice president and account director, said the agency will not be hiring as a result of the new business.

Burger King May Go Back to the Old Way

Burger King may soon be through breaking the rules.

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Its 18-month-old slogan, “Sometimes you’ve gotta break the rules,” is about to be replaced by a variation of its old “Have it your way” theme. Although the new theme has not been selected, several Burger King franchisees say that among the slogans being considered is “Your way. Right Away.”

The new theme is expected to air in mid-April and focus on the Whopper hamburger. Many franchisees have long been unhappy with the current campaign, which some say is confusing at best. Burger King executives declined to comment on the changes.

Ice Skating With Spring So Near? Absolut-ly

Many readers of New York magazine are certain to be puzzled by one advertisement this week.

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Carillon Importers Ltd., the U.S. marketer of Absolut Vodka, has inserted a cardboard jigsaw puzzle ad in newsstand issues. The ad, created TBWA Advertising in New York, is a winter scene of people ice skating on a pond shaped like an Absolut vodka bottle.

Why a winter scene when most readers are thinking about spring? Well, Absolut is well-known for Christmas print ads that have played music, “spoken” greetings and even sprinkled snow-like flakes. Although the company denies it, some industry executives suspect that the ad is a leftover Christmas promotion that couldn’t be held over another year.


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