Jerry Della Femina

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Jerry Della Femina
Born Gennaro Tomas Della Femina
(1936-07-22) July 22, 1936 (age 78)
Brooklyn, New York
Residence East Hampton, New York
Nationality American
Ethnicity Italian
Occupation Advertising executive
Known for "Madman" advertising personality
Notable work(s) From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor (1969)
Home town Coney Island
Salary $250,000+
Spouse(s) Judy Licht

Jerry Della Femina (born 1936 in Brooklyn)[1][2] is an American advertising executive and restaurateur. Starting from a poor Italian background in Brooklyn, he eventually became chairman of Della Femina Travisano & Partners, an agency which he founded with Ron Travisano in the 1960s. Over the next two decades they grew the company into a major advertising house that was billing $250 million per year, and had 300 employees and offices in both New York and Los Angeles.[3][4] Della Femina is known for his larger than life personality and colorful language and was referred to as a "'Madman' of Madison Avenue". In 1970, he wrote a book about the advertising industry, humorously titled, From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor: Front-Line Dispatches from the Advertising War. It became a cult bestseller, described by The Guardian as "one of the defining books about advertising", and eventually inspired the television series Mad Men.[5][6][7]

Biography[edit]

Della Femina was born into a working-class family in Coney Island, Brooklyn. His father, Michael, was a composing room employee for The New York Times.[8] Della Femina graduated from Lafayette High School and attended one year of night school at Brooklyn College.[9] In 1952, at the age of 16, he worked as a delivery boy for the Ruthruff and Ryan advertising agency. He also worked at The New York Times as a messenger boy, dropping off proofs at advertising agencies.[7] He tried unsuccessfully in 1954 to get into advertising himself, and was repeatedly rejected until in 1961, when he landed a job as a copyeditor at Daniel & Charles, then worked through multiple other agencies. He worked for two and a half years at Delehanty, Kurnit & Geller, and then became a creative supervisor at Ted Bates Advertising.[citation needed]

Della Femina Travisano & Partners[edit]

In 1967, he started his own agency, Della Femina Travisano & Partners, founding it with Ron Travisano, an advertising supervisor he had met while working as a copyeditor at Delehanty Kurnit & Geller.[7][10] Della Femina owned one-third, Travisano owned one-third, and the rest was distributed among two other partners whom they had known from DKG and had followed them to Ted Bates Advertising.[9] Della Femina was chairman, and Travisano was vice-chairman and co-director of creative services. Their first account was for Squire, a company that made hairpieces, and they came up with an ad, "Are you still combing your memories?" In 1970, they won their first major account, for Blue Nun Wine, and came up with a campaign that used the talents of comics Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara.[1]

The agency was also known for its work on Isuzu (creating the fictional spokesman Joe Isuzu), Beck's Beer, Chemical Bank, Dow Brands (Fingerman), and Pan Am. Their most famous campaign was the Meow Mix Theme,[11] conceived by Ron Travisano and composed by David Lucas of Lucas/McFaul, which featured an apparent singing cat. In 1981, they won the account for the New York Mets, marking the first time that a Major League Baseball team had hired an ad agency.[2] By 1985, when Travisano sold his shares and left the agency, they had around 300 employees in New York and Los Angeles[7] were still privately held and were billing approximately $250 million annually.[12]

Later agencies[edit]

Della Femina sold the agency in 1986 to a British group, WCRS, for a reported $30 million USD, though he continued working at the company.[1] WCRS was then sold to a French ad agency group, Eurocom. Della Femina was not happy with the loss of control, left in June 1992, and started a new agency, Jerry, Inc., in December of that year. Accounts included the New York Mets, Newsweek, Marvel Comics, and Financial Security Assurance. He merged it in May 1994 with the New York office of Ketchum Advertising, forming Jerry & Ketchum, with new clients including North Shore University Hospital. The name later changed to Della Femina/Jeary and Partners.[13]

Personality[edit]

A self-styled "publicity slut", Della Femina made headlines for colorful comments throughout his career. His 1971 book From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor was a best-seller. The title refers to a tongue-in cheek slogan proposed for the client Panasonic during a brainstorming session.[14] USA Today described him as, "the most colorful creative guy in an industry full of colorful creative guys."[1]

Restaurateur[edit]

He ran a restaurant, Della Femina, in East Hampton, until he sold it in early 2011, because, "I’m just not ready to have my wealth redistributed. I’m not ready to pay more tax money than the next guy because I provide jobs and because I work a 60-hour week and I earn more than $250,000 a year. So why am I dropping out? Read a brilliant book by Ayn Rand called Atlas Shrugged, and you’ll know."[15]

Current projects[edit]

He currently co-publishes the regional weekly newspaper The Independent based in East Hampton, New York.

Accolades[edit]

He received honorary doctorates from the University of Missouri in 1983 and from Long Island University in 1989. He has been named one of the "100 most influential advertising people of the century" by Advertising Age.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Della Femina has been married to journalist and television host Judy Licht since 1983.[8] They met in 1981 when she interviewed him for Channel 5.[2] They have two children, now adults. Della Femina also has three grown children by a previous marriage: Donna, Michael, and Jodi.

Della Femina and his wife reside in New York City, East Hampton, and West Palm Beach, Florida.

Books[edit]

  • Jerry Della Femina (1970). From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor: Front Line Dispatches from the Advertising War (First Edition ed.). Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671205714. 
  • Jerry Della Femina (1978). An Italian Grows in Brooklyn (1st edition ed.). Little, Brown. ISBN 0316179914. 

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Moore, Martha T. (May 17, 1994). "Della Femina invites more fame, fortune". USA Today. 
  2. ^ a b c Anderson, Susan Heller and Maurice Carroll (July 24, 1984). Magic and the Mets. The New York Times
  3. ^ Tamny, John (April 30, 2011). "Jerry Della Femina, the "Mad Men" Ad Man, Has Shrugged". Forbes. Retrieved June 12, 2011. 
  4. ^ Della Femina, Jerry (July 17, 2010). "'We drank, we smoked, we slept around' - When the Mad Men writers need advice they call the legendary Jerry Della Femina. As his seminal memoir is republished, he recalls the years of shocking excess. Mad Men: the reality was far worse". The Times. 
  5. ^ Dean, Will (July 17, 2010). "The last of the Madison Avenue mavericks of Mad Men". The Guardian. Retrieved June 13, 2011. 
  6. ^ Bierut, Michael. "Jerry Della Femina, Mad Men, and the Cult of Advertising Personality". The Design Observer Group. Retrieved June 12, 2011. 
  7. ^ a b c d United Press International (July 13, 1985). "The 'Madman' of Madison Avenue Jerry Della Femina says he just wants to have fun". San Jose Mercury News. 
  8. ^ a b "Jerry Della Femina marries Judy Licht". New York Times. February 16, 1983. Retrieved June 12, 2011. 
  9. ^ a b "An interview with Mr. Jerry Della Femina". 1969. Retrieved June 12, 2011. 
  10. ^ Siegel, RitaSue. "You can't influence people if you live in a vacuum". Communication Arts. Retrieved June 10, 2011. 
  11. ^ Moore, Martha T. (May 17, 1994). "Della Femina invites more fame, fortune". USA Today. 
  12. ^ Dougherty, Philip H. (March 11, 1985). "Advertising Agency's Travisano Moving On". New York Times. 
  13. ^ Gross, Michael (April 6, 1998). Jerry Della Femina: (M)Adman. New York Magazine
  14. ^ Della Femina, Jerry (1971) From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-78052-2
  15. ^ Femina, Jerry Della (April 20, 2011). "Jerry going on strike". Retrieved June 12, 2011. 

External links[edit]