Art & Commerce: Groundhog Day

About three years ago, I joined Adweek from a rust-belt daily newspaper in northern New Jersey, where I wrote about the mob and police corruption. I knew almost nothing about advertising, but figured I’d learn as I went. How hard could it be?
Actually, it turned out to be both easier and harder to decipher. Looking back at the first news pages I edited, I can’t help but mutter, “Plus ‚a change, plus c’est la mme chose.” It makes me feel like I could have learned everything I needed to know in the first week. Some examples:
In the first issue of Adweek I ever worked on, Delta Air Lines was in review. Saatchi won it. As I leave this magazine, that business is walking out Saatchi’s door to Leo Burnett, following yet another review.
Saatchi boss Jennifer Laing, however, has exchanged planes for boats: Her shop appears poised to win the Celebrity Cruises review. Guess what? Three years ago, “Celebrity Prepares to Make Final Cut” was one of my first headlines.
Domino’s Pizza was also in review. And this week dƒjˆ vu all over again.
Microsoft was shuffling some assignments between Wieden and Anderson & Lembke. History suggests that McCann/A&L, the beneficiary of the most recent shuffling, should not assume that company is ever done shuffling.
And here’s one for the If-only-we-knew-then-what-we-know-now file: Nike was looking for new ideas beyond Wieden & Kennedy for its Niketown account. Goodby, Silverstein & Partners had previously lost a pitch for that business against–get this–The Leap Group!
I’m oversimplifying, of course, because there’s been seismic changes. Three years ago, Adweek made relatively few references to the Internet.
IQ didn’t even run every week. I remember my boss, Alison Fahey, asking me in my job interview what I thought the big issues of the day were on the advertising scene. “This Internet thing looks interesting,” I hedged. I’d never even used e-mail before.
Among my most enduring memories: Kevin Roberts, fresh from Procter & Gamble as Saatchi’s new worldwide CEO, sitting in his clearly untouched Hudson Street digs a few weeks after he had announced his arrival at the agency by patroling the L.A. office with a baseball bat. He used a number of locker-room words as he explained his mission at Saatchi. It occurred to me then–and I still think now–that if packaged-goods advertising is dull, it must be the client’s fault.
And what about that massive party Wells threw when it moved into posh new digs on lower Madison Avenue? I remember sucking down a few vodkas, looking at that “Herman Melville” spot for Heineken and watching Frank Assumma glad-handing anyone who came within arm’s reach. I thought to myself, “This place is looking good!” (Wells began to unravel within weeks.)
Some of you might remember that “Shop Talk” item about Peter Arnell breaking every traffic law in the book as he drove (nay raced) to a press conference with NYPD commissioner Howard Safir, clearly under the impression that since he was handling the NYPD’s ad account, laws were for the little people. That was me in the passenger seat. I think I left fingernail marks on his dashboard.
Along the way, there’s been the regular dose of backstabbing and political jockeying, not to mention more than a few lawsuits.
Now I’m off to become celebrity news editor at the crime Web site Something tells me life won’t be much different there.
Jim Edwards is the Managing Editor of Adweek’s Eastern Edition