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Book Review: Funny Business – Moguls, Mobsters, Megastars, And the Mad, Mad World of the Ad Game by Allen Rosenshine

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Allen Rosenshine is a man the general public doesn’t know, but most will be familiar with his work. He has been in the advertising business for over 40 years. He joined the prestigious ad agency BBDO in 1965 as a copywriter, became the creative director in 1978, and then was promoted to CEO in 1985.

The following year, he was one of the main parties responsible for what TIME magazine dubbed “advertising’s big bang,” the formation of Omnicom, which according to their website “is a strategic holding company that manages a portfolio of global market leaders” that operates “in the disciplines of advertising, marketing services, specialty communications, interactive/digital media and media buying services.” In response to the conglomeration frenzy caused by the Saatchi brothers, Omnicon was created by the merger of BBDO, Doyle Dane Bernbach, and Needham Harper Steers, ad agencies responsible for memorable ad campaigns like Campbell Soup "Mmm mm good," Life cereal "Hey, Mikey," and McDonald’s’ "You deserve a break today."

Funny Business is a series of over 60 short vignettes compiled from Rosenshine’s career which found him dealing with a wide cast of characters as the book’s subtitle indicates. He introduces us to clients such as Mr. Wrigley of chewing gum fame, who always expected to be formally addressed, and a narcoleptic executive who slept through meetings, feeling safe that if the presentations got to him, they must be good. He got to work on campaigns with celebrities like Don Rickles, Muhammad Ali, and Michael Jackson, the latter of who was infamously was burned while shooting a commercial.

Rosenshine’s job saw him run in the same circles as the rich and famous. He met with President Bush I a few times due to his work for a Partnership for a Drug Free America, attended the fiftieth birthday party for Luciano Pavarotti, and had his date hit upon by Joe DiMaggio.

No one is perfect, which Rosenshine illustrates by sharing some mistakes he and his colleagues made. For example, Jim Jordan turned down an up-and-coming comedian he thought was unfunny. This occurred shortly before his album, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, became a national sensation. At times, names are changed to protect the parties, especially mobsters that he dealt with and some business associates who don’t come off looking that well.

Funny Business is reminiscent of listening to an uncle or a grandfather share stories. There is no rhyme or reason to the order in which they are presented. Rosenshine moves from one to the next, bouncing around in time, as if they just occur to him to share at the moment. His stories are amusing and delivered in a breezy, congenial manner. The book is perfect for reading in short spurts. While they probably won’t have you laughing out loud unless you knew the people or the business better, the stories should give you a grin.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS