Acollege friend of mine used to routinely admonish me to "think of someone besides yourself for a change!" But Kristi wasn't encouraging acts of civic goodness. Oh, no. She just wanted me to run across campus to pick up some fried chicken or some other treat. Nevertheless, that phrase has stuck in my head ever since. Like an ax.
One man who tried to help me (and everyone else in his employ) not just think of someone else but do something for them was Jay Chiat. In that spirit, a cadre of his closest peers and friends have found a most suitable way to honor him in the wake of his recent passing. At memorials in New York and Los Angeles, current and former leaders of what is now TBWA\Chiat\Day announced that this Friday, June 21, will be Jay Day.
According to Roseanne McNulty (who worked closely with Jay at the agency and later was his Sopranos-ish consigliere at Screaming Media), those who planned the event wanted to find a way of including other people in celebration of his legend. Thus, we are asked to acknowledge the day by doing something special for someone.
The call to action was printed, appropriately enough, on classic Chiat/Day T-shirts, distributed to all the guests. I thought I'd share the information so that you, too, can celebrate Jay Day on the first day of every summer. Here are the tips suggested on the T-shirt:
Adopt a high road.
Turn a room upside down.
Tell it like it is.
Be there for a friend. Or a stranger.
Drive on the left side of the brain.
Buy art from a young artist.
Baby-sit no one. Mentor someone.
___________ (Fill in the blank.)
Many of you are no doubt already deeply committed to one cause or another. If so, why not use Friday as a chance to renew that pledge? Take a tip from Chiat veteran Scott Lukas, who got Jay's message loud and clear. Lukas, a brand consultant who now has his own firm, Dosage in New York, is deeply committed to mentoring and has been involved in the Big Brother program in New York for seven years. He knows that careers are indelibly shaped early on, and he wanted to make a difference in someone else's life.
He believes advertising is "way too white" and says there is "an extremely interesting world out there that we often ignore." Mentoring a young man from Harlem through high school and community college has opened Scott's eyes. The result has been a deeper empathy and understanding of "the world you usually just see on TV" and a bond with a man he now considers a brother. If you've thought about being a mentor, why not sign up in your community? Call on Friday and get the ball rolling.
Jay Day is by no means limited to those who knew or worked with Jay. New York has seen plenty of neighborly care in the last nine months. One friend, Playboy's Stacy Smith, is using the spirit of Jay Day to gather her troops to help Rescue 2 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and some firehouses that are off the beaten path and overlooked by well-wishers.
If you knew Stacy, you'd know that all she has to do to lift a fireman's spirits is walk in the room. But her best feature is her heart. She and as many as a dozen of her girlfriends cook dinners and entertain the troops every three weeks or so. She's helped raise several thousands of dollars, and the result of her Jay Day efforts will be a benefit performance scheduled for later this year that will raise more for FDNY charities.
Don't get me wrong, I know how difficult it can be trying to marry good intentions with the realities of your already overtaxed schedule. And let's be honest, it's easy for Bono to be the King of Pro Bono because he's a freaking rock-star gazillionaire.
Hill, Holliday's design director, Rick Atwood, for example, loved teaching at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, but almost lost his mind trying to get out of his office in time for 6 p.m. classes. He'll spend at least part of Jay Day looking for other ways to continue sharing his vast design knowledge with students.
My plans? I'm going to work my way through the whole list. But most important, I'm going to concentrate the majority of my efforts on behalf of a young lady named Mindy who is "dying to go into advertising." So it is written, so it shall be done. Whether she finishes her four-year college program or goes straight to the Miami Ad School next year, I'm looking forward to sharing every step of the way with her. And I'm doing it because if I hadn't known Jay, you wouldn't be reading this column. I wouldn't be in advertising. And I certainly wouldn't be Man About Town.
Happy Jay Day!