Summertime Flings

The summer turned out to be busier than many agencies expected, thanks in part to the season’s unusual new-business pace. Still, many in the ad community were able to get away for a bit, and here are tales from a few.

Tom Roberts wasn’t quite sure why his kayak was vibrating as he paddled around Alaska’s Glacier Bay one day in July. “I thought I brushed against a rock, but I was in deep water and realized it was the singing of the whales,” says Roberts, 53, a creative director at RPA in Santa Monica, Calif. “They were feeding and were in constant communication with each other.” He got close to the mammals at other times while on the 10-day trip with family and friends. There were also moments in a catamaran watching a 350-foot-high glacier collapse in front of him—”It was one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen,” he says—and a couple nights in a small cabin without water or power. The isolation of that rugged land wasn’t jolting, he says, but returning to California was. “It was a culture shock coming back where everyone has a cell phone stuck to their ear,” he says.

Tyra Hillsten’s culture shock came the day she landed in India to work in Saatchi & Saatchi’s Mumbai office as part of the agency’s month-long exchange program. “The population is massive,” says Hillsten, 31, an account supervisor based in New York. “You can never wrap your head around India. It definitely keeps surprising you.” She visited other areas of the country for two weeks in June after finishing her stint at the agency, often scared for her life as she traveled in rickshaws. “There are all sorts of strange things in the road you’d never anticipate, like cows and camels and elephants,” she says.

A month later, in France, bikes would rule the road. Curt Hecht got to watch one stage of the Tour de France through the window of an official car. It wasn’t just the highlight of his summer, but “the highlight of all my summers,” says the Chicago-based managing director of GM Planworks and competitive amateur cyclist. His seat in the car of Patrice Clerc, president of the organization that runs the Tour, came courtesy of Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Lévy. After being a part of the Starcom MediaVest team that won the $3.2 billion domestic media business in May, Hecht hoped he could get a spot on the balcony of Publicis’ headquarters overlooking the race’s final stage in Paris. But Lévy told him, “I can do one better than that.” Through other contacts, Hecht was able to join Lance Armstrong at the champ’s retirement party. “It’s priceless, you can’t even say what that’s worth, on all levels,” Hecht, 37, says.

In the neighboring country of Belgium, Modernista! planner Aaron Perrino spent a couple summer nights performing with the Antwerp-based rock band Arsenal. Last year, members of the group, who had remembered Perrino from a former band called The Sheila Divine, asked him to sing some tracks for their new album. That work, called Outsides, was released in May—not long after Perrino started in advertising—and is taking off in Belgium. When he accepted an invitation to join Arsenal at the early August festivals, he had no idea what to expect. Turns out about 15,000 people showed up for each performance. “I had played in front of crowds that big,” says Perrino, 31. “It’s still so intimidating.” Nonetheless, he’d join Arsenal again if he could fit a gig into his schedule. “It was really fun,” he says.

Franny Karkosak didn’t leave the United States for her escape in July. The director of media integration at TM Advertising in Irving, Texas, spent four days in Reno, Nev., at the Romance Writers of America conference, where she was able to network with agents, editors and fellow writers. “I really enjoy romance novels and felt that in wanting to creatively express myself, the romance genre is what I wanted,” says Karkosak, 32, who has completed six manuscripts in the past three years and is shopping around two. The conference, which included sessions led by prolific authors like Nora Roberts and Susan Elizabeth Phillips, offered “a chance to get reinvigorated and excited,” she says. And no, TM colleagues have never been subjects in her work. “I love the people in my life,” she says. “But I’m not interested in writing about them.”