Monday, March 12, 2012
Author: Steven C. Eisner
Taking over a company that is failing is not easy by any means. Giving up your job to rebuild your father’s legacy admirable but not always that simple. Sam Spiegel is in advertising working on Madison Avenue. What more can a young executive ask for than to work in the heart of Manhattan directly in the pulse of industry and where the movers and shakers live and work. But, Sam is about to make a drastic change as his father, Harry requests his help to rebuild his ad shop and business and it is off to Pennsylvania for Sam and his wife Amy. Sam’s outlook on the business is quite different than his father’s. Sam is all for progress and growth where Harry believes in the mainstay and is worried about money and taking risks.
Sam was an entrepreneur early on. He and his friend Ben created their own special music and sound-using 45’s to entertain at Bar Mitzvahs. Joining the dancers on the dance floor he and Ben created fun games and dances that really got them noticed. His father was one of his staunch followers and really believed in him. A school election would spark him even further as the outcome might have been a tie but the end result is he won. Sam’s goal was to emulate his father and become part of his business. Sam’s father wanted the Spiegel Brand to become a household name and the author relates Sam’s life before going into advertising, his friends, his earlier life and his feelings towards his brother Mickey and why they did not get along.
Beth Ehrenberg was his first love and the author relates their relationship and how it started and eventually ended. Sam received an internship at Doyle Dane and Bernbach a major ad company on Madison Avenue. Sam was really great at his job and what started out as temporary wound up being permanent. Meeting Amy his wife was next and their up and down relationship almost ended in his going back to where he really wanted to be with Beth.
This company woos Sam and he sparks to the top but his relationship with his family, brother and friends provide much of the back-stories in this book. Sam always wanted to work along side his father and his brother never really wanted the same things. Even his engagement to Amy is questionable as his heart and mind are really with someone else.
But, the real story starts with Sam’s father asking him to give up his job and life in New York and take over the family business right before his marriage to Amy who does not seem thrilled with this change of plans. Added to that his brother Mikey needs to be front and center all the time only the best in apparel for him to go to and I quote the wedding of Golden Boy as Sam is called. What does it mean to Sam and how would life change? Would he be able to build his father’s business to equal that of his competitors? As the author states it’s like shopping in high-end stores like Bergdorf’s and downgrading to Goodwill.
Sam’s goal in taking over the company as he relates is to create a company that would rocket to national proportions. Beginning during the early 70’s at Doyle Dane Bernbach relates his rise from intern to working with a team to save an account before it goes to a competitor. But as I said the real story is when he takes over the Spiegel Agency and make his father proud. As Sam begins working at the agency the author introduces the reader to the people that would either help him rise along with his company and those that would be dispensable and gone. Harvey Lodenberg was the main force or real brains of the ad company teaching Sam the ropes from the start. Sol Katz handled the larger accounts and Harvey helping to save the Cat Paws Heels and Soles was his baby. There are many others that worked with him. The one thing that did stand out in his mind is that the agency stood the sands of time and the appearance needed uplift from its 70’s old-fashioned look. His father was the keeper of the purse or the finances and he oversaw the Horseracing Association’s account. This account and several others that the author relates kept them afloat but not to the magnitude he wanted.
Throughout the novel the reader learns many advertising tips and how to handle getting new accounts. The author’s experience comes through and the excitement generated each time he gets a new account is contagious. Learning and listening from those that worked for him and even finally getting a photocopier helps the reader understand the depths he went to in order to rebuild this company. But a burglar ruins the momentum as they return after an evening out to find their apartment ransacked and their valuables gone. What comes through loud and clear is Amy’s non-reaction to the event and her coldness towards Sam as he tried to sooth her fears with his touch but hers was not there leading him to flashback to Beth.
Disagreements and his father’s decision to make a deal that would ruin it all. A company that wanted to take over the business and Sam was dead set against it. A brother who wanted him to invest with no less that dear Bernie Madoff himself. Loren Rucker was his only salvation and the only person who truly understood Sam’s vision, as it was his too. As the tension rose even further and Amy came into the company and her division did not flourish, things began to go downhill for Sam.
Things became more difficult and father and son decided to seek counseling and some help. The end result proved positive as Sam bought the company and became President and his father Chairman allowing his parents to get their money and Sam to hold on to his dream. The friction between them was higher that static electricity many times the distance between him and his brother grew and the years moved on.
Hiring Bud Ashley would be his ruination. Undermining him, coming on to Amy and enlisting her help in a plot to destroy what he and his father worked so hard for. With Harry gone Sam plotted on and got some major airline accounts. Star Spangled Air and after that Spirit and Citizen’s Air. When he realized what Bud’s agenda was and fired him he decided to do his best to ruin Sam and the sad part Amy was part of the deceit too. From the pain from a stone that finally passed on a plane to the more serious pain that would never go away when his wife deceived him, Sam Spiegel had to do more than must fight for his company, his business but his life too.
The end result will not really surprise the reader but awaken Sam to the hidden truths that he should never have had to face. His wife, Lance Winfry and Bud sabotage his company, life and his dream but not Sam’s spirit. When the business is about to see its end and his marriage is on a permanent downhill spiral one person will come through and might see him through. Pain, sorrow, and a wife who is just in it for herself and never really cared about Sam and resented him from the start, Minefields will take you inside the world of advertising and the cutthroat methods many will use just to get the account. What happens to Sam and will he rise up or sink? What about his children Adam and Audrey where would their allegiance be and what about his best friend Ben? This book takes the reader, Sam and Spiegel Communications on a uphill and downhill ad campaign with many wins, loses and defeats that change the world of one man Sam Spiegel. Will Sam give it up and sell it out? Will he allow another company to come in and take over? Minefields is a thought provoking book that tells the story of one man’s one desire to make his father proud and to fulfill his lifelong dream. Who is on his side and who betrays him? Read Minefields and you decide which campaign and owner of Spiegel is right for the job.
Author Steven Eisner penned a memoir about Sam’s life and created a memoir mirroring his own life and hoping to relate to others what happens when the sharks come out of the water and the greed wins out. Success comes at a huge price sometimes. Blindsided by those you love and those you care about really hard to take. Read it.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer