A while ago, out of sheer, eyeball-clawing desperation, I sought to reduce the mountain of books covering every surface of my office by Tom Sawyering some readers into reviewing them. Many of you wrote in offering to take on my workload. I didn’t really expect anything to come of this purely selfish exercise, but reader John Struan is apparently a) really bored or b) really conscientious. I prefer to think b). (Struan, btw, runs a funny blog with lots of weird links called SuperPunch.)
Struan reviews Allen Rosenshine’s Funny Business: Moguls, Mobsters, Megastars and the Mad, Mad World of the Ad Game. Which isn’t really a workplace book per se but is about the fascinating world of advertising. Only Struan didn’t find the book so fascinating. Here’s his review below. Thanks, John! Sorry, Allen.
Allen Rosenshine’s Funny Business: Moguls, Mobsters, Megastars and the Mad, Mad World of the Ad Game is not a good book. Rosenshine makes clear in the foreword that his book is not a primer about the advertising business. It’s just a collection of approximately seventy anecdotes about his career, told in no apparent order. Sounds like an ok idea – - he was the head of one of the most important ad companies in the world, divorced his wife, married a beautiful coworker, and met presidents, actors, and athletes. Sounds ok, except the stories are not interesting. Here’s a summary of three of the first few chapters in the book:
Once, Rosenshine worked on an ad campaign featuring Muhammad Ali. Rosenshine was worried that Ali would be difficult to work with. However, Ali was friendly and professional. Their day together was uneventful.
Once, Rosenshine had a business dinner related to an ad campaign for Pepsi. On the following day, he became concerned that his wife had ordered a Diet Coke during the meal. If she had, it might have jeopardized his relationship with Pepsi. However, he was mistaken. She had not ordered a Diet Coke.
Once, Rosenshine was contacted by someone seemingly connected with the mafia. The man wanted advice regarding a business idea. Rosenshine was frightened of the man, but told the man that the idea was not a very good one. The man thanked Rosenshine and never contacted him again.
Now, Seinfeld taught that in the right hands even the most trivial events can be hilarious. But this book demonstrates that whatever skills are needed to create a good ad are not the same ones needed to write an interesting sentence:
“I met Frank Sinatra twice, although it would be more accurate to say that I encountered him, since our meetings were mostly a matter of being in the same place at the same time.”
“For a company unaccustomed to spending heavily on the production of advertising, in addition to the media costs in delivering their messages to potential customers, the idea of writing checks in the millions of dollars to Hollywood personalities, singers, athletes, and assorted other subjects of popular adoration, who will neither produce nor deliver any product to market, is a very difficult proposition.”
In short, not a good book on any level. No steak. No sizzle.