Kirshenbaum submits a vibrant, educational look at his days as creative director of his New York City advertising company.
“Advertising people by nature tend to be quirky, fun, and loquacious,” which may only be half true, but the author certainly fits snuggly into that camp. He rose in the industry during the 1980s and cut a broad swath as an unconventional, inventive adman, tackling everything from Reynolds Wrap to cognac. In this jaunty memoir, he starts with a little familial background material before moving on to tales from the trade: encounters with the rich and famous and, better yet, the not-so rich and hardly famous; the crazy shoots; the whole milieu of high-stakes advertising. Yet there is plenty of hard business information in these pages, for Kirshenbaum appreciates discipline, old-school politesse and plain hard work. Much of his wisdom is reduced to aphorisms, and he knows the power of laughter as a business model as well as the fact “that unless you have a killer strategy, you might go down the wrong path creatively.” What stands out in particular is the author’s ability to convey the exigent art of the creative process at work. His outlook is part liberal and socially conscious—he came up with the Kenneth Cole campaign that featured characters du jour: Imelda Marcos and her 2,700 shoes, Dan Quayle and Oliver North (“Isn’t it time America focused less on arms and more on feet?”). Kirshenbaum’s bracing, often ribald humor carries right through the page and onto the sidewalk, where he stenciled such ads as that for Bamboo Lingerie: “From here it looks like you could use some new underwear.”
A shimmering piece of work, in which the flash illuminates the creative act.