Episode 13: Mike Donahue, EVP, American Association of Advertising Agencies on Killer Margaritas, Top TV Commercials and Eccentric Parts

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Mike gives a no holds barred interview, discussing his private life openly - just as we'd expect from this magnanimous headman. He name drops his buddies: Rob Berger (Euro RSCG), Phil Dusenberry (BBDO), Juan Valdez (coffee dude) and the Jolly Green Giant. He describes Jerry Della Femina's home in the Hamptons. He shares his proudest accomplishments. He extolls the best parts of his family life. He throws out a few great movie rental ideas, his recipe for Killer Margaritas* and the ingredients in Egg Creams. A good Catholic school boy, he riffs about "joints" and "media." He talks about giving Al Gore his first platform for "An Inconvenient Truth." And at the end, Susan pumps Mike for advice about forming the new industry association: ADM "Association for Downloadable Media." Hear Mike's dark movie recommendations, recipes and sage advice on this fast-moving and entertaining show with one of the most important men in media.

Transcript

Mike Donahue, EVP, American Association of Advertising Agencies on Killer Margaritas, Top TV Commercials and Eccentric Parts

Announcer:  This program is brought to you by personallifemedia.com.

[Music]

Susan Bratton:  Welcome to Dishy Mix.  I’m your host, Susan Bratton, and I’m really glad you tuned in today.  Thanks for listening to the podcast.  On today’s show we have Mike Donahue.  He’s the EVP of the four A’s, which translates to Executive Vice President of member services for the American Association of Advertising Agencies.  I’ve known Mike since I got into the interactive marketing business and I’m really glad to have him on the show because both what he does for a living and what he does in his life is really interesting to me.  On today’s show we are going to talk about the green, the jolly green giant, tall people, the agency business, benevolent dictators, Kyra Sedgwick, killer Margaritas, Al Gore and more.

Mike Donahue:  Everybody here up to and including my CEO, uh, cognizant to the fact that really digital does change everything and things that I was doing ten years ago that were really on the cutting edge are now sort of in the sweet spot and, and in the, you know, the mainstream.  What the, the egg cream, which is a drink, has no eggs in it, nor, nor any cream.  And it’s an Eastern, it’s a, it’s a very New York specific drink that is a, that is a combination of Seltzer, uh syrup um and milk, and depends on the milk, and, and you blend all this together, and the milk and the syrup and the, and the Seltzer make a pretty interesting combination and for some reason that’s called an egg cream.

Mike Donahue:  Well, we like movies that are, that, that have sort of eccentric people in them…

Susan Bratton:  Mmm hmm?

Mike Donahue:  That, that are funny.  I mean, I’ll give you some examples.  Uh, one of our favorites was Grosse Pointe Blank which uh…

Susan Bratton:  Yah that was good…

Mike Donahue:  Johnnie Cusack and his daughter, uh sister Joan were in…

Susan Bratton:  Yup…

Mike Donahue:  Where he kills a guy with a ballpoint pen.  Um, actually and his best buddy in that was a guy named Je-, Jeremy Piven who at that point in time, eight or nine years ago, wasn’t even known.

Susan Bratton:  Now he’s entourage famous.

Mike Donahue:  Now he’s entourage, exactly.

Susan Bratton:  Love that show.

Mike Donahue:  And the word medium is the singular, and the word media is plural.  Now, if you don’t, most people don’t have Latin any more, but when I hear about the fact that when somebody says that print is a great media, it’s like rubbing, uh, fingernails on a blackboard for me.  Because print is the singular verb, singular noun, and media is a plural noun.  So print is a great medium, but print and outdoor are great media.

Mike Donahue:  Subsequently I met a man at Google Zeitgeist event.  I go to the Google Zeitgeist every year.  And I walked up to him and I said, Mr Vice President, you probably remember me from, you know, from, he said “ah that’s right you got me in the four A’s media conference”, I said “why, you got a good memory”.  I said I just want to tell you that you got me in a lot of trouble, and he stopped me and he said “what do you mean?”  And I said “well you know, you were nice enough to call out, call me out as, as the one responsible” and right, my boss says “why does he insist on calling you out, I’m the one who runs this joint”.  Well of course Burtch never did that but…

Susan Bratton:  Welcome Mike.

Mike Donahue:  Glad to do it Susan…

Susan Bratton:  Hah

Mike Donahue:  Good to catch up with you again.

Susan Bratton:  It’s a pleasure.  I’m glad we were able to pin you down for thirty minutes man, you been traveling lately huh?

Mike Donahue:  It’s a, it’s a busy world out there.

Susan Bratton:  Haha

Mike Donahue:  There’s a media conference next uh March, says digital changes everything.

Susan Bratton:  Well and that, that’s a great segue for me, thank you.  You really were the person at the four A’s, back in the late nineties and the mid nineties, who stepped up and said “I’m going to handle E initiatives”.  You kind of became the digital guy at the four A’s.  Why did you do that?  How did that happen?

Mike Donahue:  Well, it just seemed like the most interesting thing happening in the communication business back then, and honestly, uh, my boss, who is, uh, somewhat digitally challenged said “hey, you can take this stuff, I know you like it.  And you just keep me up to date and whatever you want to do I’ll support you”.

Susan Bratton:  Well you’ve been at the Association for thirteen years, at least half of which has been in the digital space for the four A’s.  For our listeners who might not be in the agency business, although we have a lot of agency, agency people who listen to Dishy Mix.  Explain the charter of the four A’s, and what, what are the kind of top three things you really get done in the world?

Mike Donahue:  Well the, the four A’s is the trade association that represents advertising agencies.  And our mission is to do for our members in aggregate what they really can’t do for themselves, uh, individually, and that’s true of large agencies as well as small.  Um, we, we provide educational stuff, anything from conferences, uh, to seminars.  Uh, we lobby for them in Washington to make sure that the first Amendment which protects lawful speech does not get trampled on, and doesn’t allow our member to do what is legal to do.  And basically we are always in the business of trying to be a bully pulpit on issues where we can represent them, um, and basically help them run their business better.

Susan Bratton:  What’s a bully pulpit?  I’ve heard that phrase but I don’t know really what it means.

Mike Donahue:  Well, because we are who we are, because we do represent agencies and agencies, the agencies where, we represent, by about eighty percent of all the, of all the communication, uh, we’re able to be honest brokers in situations where, I mean, an example would be the, uh, the electronic business transaction process improvement we’re doing where the media came to us, the store, all the back-end storeship vendors and the agencies and said “hey look, this business is crazy, we shouldn’t be doing paper any more, we should be moving business electronically.  If you guys don’t end up, you know, playing the facilitator in the middle, uh, we’re not going to be able to make this happen.”  And that’s what we’ve been doing for the last five years, in that one particular initiative.

Susan Bratton:  Got it.  So there’s a lot of, um, organizational and process change that you bring about by being an aggregator of the community’s needs.

Mike Donahue:  Exactly.  Very well stated.

Susan Bratton:  Thank you dear.  So, what for you in the last thirteen years, of your work at the four A’s has been your single proudest achievement?  What’s been your moment of glory thus far?

Mike Donahue:  Well, from a, from an organizational stand-point, I would say it’s, uh, getting everybody here, up to and including my CEO, uh, cognizant to the fact that really digital does change everything and things that I was doing ten years ago that were really on the cutting edge are now sort of in the sweet spot and, and in the, you know, the mainstream.  From a personal stand-point it was actually, uh, creating a show, and helping produce a television show which actually ran about five or six years ago and which if you ever saw it you’d see my name in the credits at the end.

Susan Bratton:  And what was the show?

Mike Donahue:  It was a, uh, arts and entertainment or history channel show which was the top, uh, ten television commercials of the last twenty five years, and the, uh, the guys from the “What’s up” commercials hosted it.  Uh, we pulled together about, we pulled a hundred commercials together, uh, some of my great creative people whittled it down to twenty five.  I got USA Today to do a public site to get the top ten, and then the History channel hired a documentary producer to do an hour show on it, and it was really pretty cool.  And at the end of it they, uh, they had me as, as the uh, as, you know, uh the creative credit.  Which was kind of neat.

Susan Bratton:  Nice.  And is that something that’s available today?  Like is it on a website or Youtube or on the four A’s site or anything?

Mike Donahue:  I don’t, it’s not um, it is only in, you know, old fashioned cassette form at this point.  I don’t think, I mean it’s conceivable that somewhere on Youtube but I doubt it because when it ran on the air I’m not sure anybody, uh, anybody did.  The time it ran interestingly was opposite the, uh, preview to the Superbowl of 2001 or 2002 which ever year it was but it, it got a good number for the History channel.  They repeated it, um, we managed to get waivers from all the talent, so that we didn’t, you know, have to pay them for the one-time running and, uh, it was a pretty cool show.

Susan Bratton:  Nice.  Well, I would encourage you to put that online, somewhere along the line, get that off of the, the cassette tape and get that digitized, and put it up on the, on the four A’s website, I mean, what better tribute to the power of advertising than that documentary.

Mike Donahue:  Absolutely, absolutely.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah, well that’s, and I’m sure everybody, everybody listening to the show today would probably enjoy watching that, so it would be great to bring that back to life.

Mike Donahue:  Yeah there’s some really good stuff on it, yeah.

Susan Bratton:  Nice.  Well so, so, what, what you, my last question was, your, you know, kind of your personal thing that you accomplish and what I heard you say was it was really bringing up the internal organization to understand what the, what was happening in the world.  What about externally?  Was there any initiative or project that you are, are very proud of, that you’d like to share with us?

Mike Donahue:  Well, I’ve been on a couple of external boards.  My father-in-law asked me to join the board of the, uh, Lighthouse, here in New York which is a, uh, an organization that, uh, raises money and creates projects, creates projects and services for visually impaired people.

Susan Bratton:  OK

Mike Donahue:  Um, and I was, one of the things I was able to do there was because of my connections with Jerry Della Femina, uh, I got Jerry involved in the board and he created some pro bono advertising for the Lighthouse, and one of the things that, that he felt very passionate about was the fact that, that, uh, too much advertising these days uses type, which makes it very difficult for visually challenged people to read.  So I felt pretty good about that, it ran in a bunch of places, and whenever you can get Jerry Della Femina to do something you know you are going to get some ink.

Susan Bratton:  Now Jerry had a restaurant.  Does he still have that restaurant?

Mike Donahue:  He had, he, the one he has in New York he closed, um, the, he’s got two out in East Hampton, New York.

Susan Bratton:  Hamptons yeah.

Mike Donahue:  Uh, those are still thriving.

Susan Bratton:  And have you ever eaten at any of his restaurants?

Mike Donahue:  Yes I’ve eaten at two of the three, uh, I ate at the one in New York before it closed, and I’ve eaten in the one in East Hampton several times, and the one in downtown East Hampton, the one up on the, uh, up on the water up in the northern part of East Hampton I have not eaten, no.

Susan Bratton:  And so any outstanding moments from that?  How are his restaurants, is he any good?

Mike Donahue:  His restaurants are great.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah?

Mike Donahue:  I mean Jerry has uh, has that fine, um, you know, uh sort of, Italian sense of what makes good food…

Susan Bratton:  Mmm hmm

Mike Donahue:  And in addition Jerry’s uh, is an incredibly good, good chef.  We’ve been, my wife Anne and I have been fortunate to be invited over to his, his house on the beach and he’s having for, uh, one of the meals that he’s, that he’s prepared and he’s, he’s pretty remarkable.

Susan Bratton:  And describe his house in the Hamptons.

Mike Donahue:  Well he’s, he’s got a house, uh, right on the beach in the Hamptons up high above the dunes.  Um, it’s fairly contemp-, it’s, it’s a contemporary house, he didn’t build it, he bought it.  And, um, it’s got large airy rooms, and the most impressive room in the house, given his penchant for, for cooking is, is his kitchen.

Susan Bratton:  Mmm.  And is it big, is it like ten thousand square feet or…

Mike Donahue:  I don’t think it’s quite that big…

Susan Bratton:  Mmm hmmm?

Mike Donahue:  …but it’s probably around five, five to six thousand square feet.  It is not a, uh, it’s not a mansion the way so many of the newer…

Susan Bratton:  Right.

Mike Donahue:  …grand houses are in East Hampton, or even some of the, what they euphemistically refer to as cottages….

Susan Bratton:  Right.

Mike Donahue:  …um, it’s not the size of that.

Susan Bratton:  And what was the most outstanding thing about his kitchen?

Mike Donahue:  Well, I think he had indust-, he has an industrial um, uh, an industrial stove, um, gas-heated of course, lots of burners um, his, his array of spice was pretty incredible, um, he just has all the kinds of stuff that you would associate with someone who really, really likes to cook.

Susan Bratton:  Hm, it’s funny I don’t know why I flashed at this, but I was, I was in Washington DC last spring, I took Taylor my daughter to see the cherry blossoms and to take her to DC to see the White House and the Smithsonian, and they have Julia Child’s kitchen in, one of her first kitchens.  They, took it out of her house, and they put it into the Smithsonian, have you ever seen that?

Mike Donahue:  No I have not, I’ve been, we, we, it’s interesting, we, the four A’s has an event every fall, where we take our board to a, um, a dinner at one of the Smithsonian venues, and you know there are eight or ten of these museums…

Susan Bratton:  Yeah

Mike Donahue:  …or more than that.  And that’s one I’ve never seen, um, we’re going down again this year to uh, to, to Washington in Mid-September  and that’s when, I’m going to look that up when I go this fall.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah it’s really neat.  It really gives you a sense of the woman and the amazing work she did with not, frankly, not very many items, haha.

Mike Donahue:  No, no, she was, she was, uh, a whirling dervish, yeah, I mean I guess, I think her cookbook is still one of the five most popular cookbooks even today.

Susan Bratton:  Oh, I’m sure it is, and now are, do you cook or do you leave that to Anne?

Mike Donahue:  Ah, I don’t cook except for the, the one thing I mentioned to you, I love to make omelets and…

Susan Bratton:  Right

Mike Donahue:  …my children, I started doing this about three years ago when my son Nick, uh, who’s now a sophomore at Bucknell, went away to uh, Warrensville school in Princeton, New Jersey, the boarding school, and he would bring kids home on a weekend, and I just started whipping up, you know, omelets from whatever we had in the fridge and it became sort of a ritual, uh, that I would do this for, for him.  Uh, I had a similar ritual with my daughter but this is one that I, she’s thirteen, um, and you can appreciate this Susan, the, we, when, when my family walks down the street they say the tall people are on the move because my wife is the shrimp at five ten…

Susan Bratton:  Haha

Mike Donahue:  My son is six seven and a half at nineteen, and my daughter at thirteen, um, is six feet one and a half.

Susan Bratton:  Wow

Mike Donahue:  So, we uh, but what I do with Su-, with Lily is um, there’s a neighborhood restaurant which has been written up as the best New York area breakfast restaurant, and we go there every Saturday morning for uh, for, for some great breakfast.  Uh, about a block and a half.  I live in a very multi-cultural area in Brooklyn called Prospect Heights and it’s, it’s got a great cross-section of people, and this restaurant, which is run by uh, a Greek family, it’s been around about seventy years, just makes the best breakfast in the world.  And of course what they make is an egg cream, now you probably know this, you probably know the unique thing about egg creams right?

Susan Bratton:  Well, you tell us, and maybe I do, maybe I don’t haha

Mike Donahue:  Well, what the, the egg cream, which is a drink, has no eggs in it, nor, nor any cream.  And it’s an Eastern, it’s a, it’s a very New York specific drink that is a, that is a combination of Seltzer, uh syrup um and milk, and depends on the milk, and, and you blend all this together, and the milk and the syrup and the, and the Seltzer make a pretty interesting combination and for some reason that’s called an egg cream.  And it’s, and Tom’s restaurant happens to specialize in egg creams.

Susan Bratton:  I’ve had them, and they are really good.  Um, and I didn’t, uh, I knew there wasn’t egg in them but I, but I thought maybe they were kind of a rootbeer or soda base, I didn’t realize it was Seltzer.

Mike Donahue:  It’s Seltzer, yeah.

Susan Bratton:  Nice.  Well, OK, so you live in Brooklyn, you’ve got one kid at home, one kid in college and…

Mike Donahue:  No actually as of, as of next week from Sunday, no kids at home because, um, Lily’s about to go off to the same boarding school that her big brother went to.  So, my wife and I, uh, who, and Anne is starting a jewelry business, uh, will be, uh, travelers in Brooklyn.

Susan Bratton:  Oh, are you worried?

Mike Donahue:  Not, not too much, not too much, no, although it’s, it’s uh, you know we, we haven’t been childless for the better part of twenty years….

Susan Bratton:  Right

Mike Donahue:  …so uh, it will be interesting to see uh, to see how we do with each other.

Susan Bratton:  Well, we’re going to take a short break, and when we come back, I want to know what you’re excited about doing when you’re kidless, so let’s take a break to thank our sponsors, um, one of which is an advertising agency haha.  Very befitting, so uh, we’ll be right back.  I’m your host, Susan Bratton, and we’re with Mike Donahue of the four A’s today.

COMMERCIALS

Susan Bratton:  We’re back, I’m your host Susan Bratton, and you’re getting to know Mike Donahue.  Mike is the Executive Vice President of the American Association for Advertising Agencies, and he is soon to be childless.  Um, so Mike we were talking about the fact that Lily’s going to boarding school, and Nick’s in college, and you and Anne are empty nesters.  What’s the one thing that you think is going to be the most fun about this time of your life?

Mike Donahue:  Well, there are so many things that Anne and I like to do together.  Um, one of which is to go to the movies…

Susan Bratton:  Mmm hmm

Mike Donahue:  We happen to be big fans of, of independent movies and especially sort of, uh, dark, uh, comic movies, um, and the beauty of being in New York, and even being in Brooklyn for that matter, is that there are lots of these small theaters that show these independent movies that unfortunately many of the people who live in other parts of the country don’t get a chance to see until they come out on DVD.  So I think there are days, there have been times in the past when we were childless, when we would pig out on movies.  I think our record is eight in three days.

Susan Bratton:  Wow

Mike Donahue:  Yeah, so we, that, that probably, uh, you know that could, that could happen as early as October.

Susan Bratton:  Haha, and are there any particular genre of movies that you two like to see?

Mike Donahue:  Well, we like movies that are, that, that have sort of eccentric people in them…

Susan Bratton:  Mmm hmm?

Mike Donahue:  That, that are funny.  I mean, I’ll give you some examples.  Uh, one of our favorites was Grosse Pointe Blank which uh…

Susan Bratton:  Yah that was good…

Mike Donahue:  Johnnie Cusack and his daughter, uh sister Joan were in…

Susan Bratton:  Yup…

Mike Donahue:  Where he kills a guy with a ballpoint pen.  Um, actually and his best buddy in that was a guy named Je-, Jeremy Piven who at that point in time, eight or nine years ago, wasn’t even known.

Susan Bratton:  Now he’s entourage famous.

Mike Donahue:  Now he’s entourage, exactly.

Susan Bratton:  Love that show.

Mike Donahue:  Yeah.  Um, another movie Red Rocks West, uh, which, the plot of which is a, uh, a bar-owner in the new West hires an out-of-town hitman to kill his wife.  His wife is Lara Flynn Boyle.  The uh, the bartender’s a character actor named J. T. Walsh who’s not that well known.  But Nicholas Cage walks into the bar, and the bar-owner thinks that he’s the hitman.  Well, Nicholas Cage ends up falling in love with this guy’s wife who he’s trying to kill, but the real hitman is one of my favorite movie actors Dennis Hopper.

Susan Bratton:  Oh yeah

Mike Donahue:  And any Dennis Hopper movie you know is going to be good because Dennis Hopper is certifiably crazy…

Susan Bratton:  Twisted!  He’s twisted.

Mike Donahue:  Absolutely.

Susan Bratton:  In a good way.

Mike Donahue:  Absolutely.  So that kind of, my current favorite is a movie called Just Kill Me with Ben Kingsley and Téa Leoni…

Susan Bratton:  Oh I love Téa Leoni.

Mike Donahue:  …and Dennis Farina, and that’s uh, the premise of that movie is an alcoholic hitman misses a hit, is sent to San Francisco to dry out and join Alcoholics Anonymous.  When he stands up in front of AA at his first meet, he says my name is, I can’t remember what his name is, my name is blah blah blah, uh, and I kill people.  He said I’m a, I’m a drunk and I kill people.  And everybody laughs but of course that’s what he does.

Susan Bratton:  Exactly.  It’s probably a good reason to be a drunk haha.  If you’re going to be a drunk, that’s a reason for it.

Mike Donahue:  Well, Ben Kingsley who is so good in everything…

Susan Bratton:  Yah

Mike Donahue:  …is just, he just inhabits this role, he’s great.

Susan Bratton:  I’m trying to think of the one that he did with the Indian woman?  Um…

Mike Donahue:  When he played Mahatma Gandhi?  Not that one.

Susan Bratton:  No, but he was good in that.  Um…

Mike Donahue:  Oh I know the one you mean, yes yes yes.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah, it’s not Midnight Garden Of…

Mike Donahue:  Good and evil.  No I know, I think I know the one you mean where that woman, if you were thinking about…

Susan Bratton:  She’s Turkish maybe?

Mike Donahue:  She was on 24.  She’s an Iranian…

Susan Bratton:  Yes Iranian, yeah yeah yeah.

Mike Donahue:  She’s an Iranian actress who, and I can see her name but I can’t pronounce it.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah, that, if that comes to you during the show just butt right in and blurt it out, because that was a good movie.

Mike Donahue:  That was a great movie.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah I like that too.  So, I want to talk about um, Ad Week, and the Jolly Green Giant, and who was it last week that…

Mike Donahue:  You’re not referring to me as the Jolly Green Giant are you?

Susan Bratton:  No you’re, you’re not green.

Mike Donahue:  Oh OK, OK

Susan Bratton:  Um, haha, um, last year was the coffee guy, what was his name, um.

Mike Donahue:  Oh, uh, Alex Ahenta, yeah, from the Colombian coffee yeah.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah

Mike Donahue:  Yes.

Susan Bratton:  Juan…

Mike Donahue:  Oh Juan Valdez.

Susan Bratton:  Juan Valdez!  Didn’t he win last year I think?

Mike Donahue:  Um, I think he, he might have won the year before.

Susan Bratton:  Mmm hmm

Mike Donahue:  These are all, this is, we’re coming up on the fourth one…

Susan Bratton:  Fourth one

Mike Donahue:  …and the three kind of blur uh…

Susan Bratton:  Yeah

Mike Donahue:  My favorite slogan won last year.  I have a friend and it was a slogan that got in the very end, and I, I, as a consideration and it ended up winning.  The slogan is “Don’t mess with Texas”

Susan Bratton:  Oh yeah that’s a good one

Mike Donahue:  And a friend of mine, Tim McClure, who is the M of GSD&M wrote this line twenty five years ago so they, you know, we used that in the twenty four slogans to be voted on and what they did in Texas which is so difficult, Texans, they marshaled the state to vote for this, vote for this slogan, they had kids in school going on to the internet, to the USA Today and Yahoo site, and voting for it, and it got more votes in aggregate than the previous three year’s slogans did together so, but it uh, but it won.

Susan Bratton:  Stack the decks on that one

Mike Donahue:  Yeah

Susan Bratton:  Now, was Ad Week your brain-child?  Who came up with that?

Mike Donahue:  No, actually the idea was, it came, it was uh, came up, my boss Burtch Drake, uh, in conjunction with Ron Berger and um, and Ken Case who unfortunately died last year.  Ken was the head of DDB, Ron of Euro RSCG and they came up with the idea to celebrate uh, the advertising business in it’s broadest form here in New York and it’s just been a great success.

Susan Bratton:  What is it that’s been so successful about it?

Mike Donahue:  Well I think it’s, um, it’s, it has created a groundswell of pride.

Susan Bratton:  Mmm hmm.

Mike Donahue:  In the business that we’re all in here in New York, it’s attracted lots of really good speakers from all around the world, uh, we throw about sixty million dollars into the New York city, uh, coffers during that week for, you know, extra revenue, and they kind of like that, and they support it very actively.  Um, and also, it gives a lot of our, uh, a lot of people the opportunity to go around and see some really cool speakers over the course of a week.  Plus we have all sorts of great entertainment during the week, um, we have new, you know we have new artists at BB Kings, last year we had uh, um, I’m trying to remember, I can’t remember who the artist that we did, uh, at the big night, the opening night.  We have things that the kids love, we have things that people who aren’t kids love.  By kids I mean the twenty-somethings…

Susan Bratton:  Sure

Mike Donahue:  You know who inhabit our business

Susan Bratton:  Yah

Mike Donahue:  Who work so hard.  And who play so hard.  So we give them the chance to do both.

Susan Bratton:  Nice.  And who handles making decisions about the speaking for the Ad Week events?

Mike Donahue:  That’s pretty much done by the board of directors of Advertising Week, which is a combination of advertising agency’s CEO’s, corporate advertising people, uh, media people, uh, it’s kind of a blue-chip list, and what Matt Shatner who is the executive director of Advertising Week in Europe, who’s just a crackerjack when it comes to doing all this stuff.  He, he comes up with the ideas, he vets them to the board, and that’s pretty much the way it works.

Susan Bratton:  Mmm hmm.  Mmm hmm.  So if someone felt like they had something really valuable to add, maybe they’d done a documentary like you did for the History channel, or something that could really lend value across a wide group of the agency world, they should bring that to your attention.

Mike Donahue:  They should connect, they should basically bring it to Matt because we, we’re still involved in the background.  I’m on the board of Advertising Week but I’m not nearly as involved in it as I was the first year but Matt is the one who, uh, who makes the trains run, and he’s the one who creates this stuff, so any ideas that people have, uh, go to him, and then he, you know, he takes it from there.

Susan Bratton:  OK.  Alright that’s good.  You know it’s funny, when I was talking to you before your interview, one of you, one of the things you said was that your pet peeve is the misuse of the words medium and media.

Mike Donahue:  Yes

Susan Bratton:  Why?  Why does that bug you?

Mike Donahue:  Well, it bugs me because it’s just, you know, you have to understand Susan that I’m, you know, I grew up in, in a Catholic family.  Uh, I went to Catholic schools from the time that I was about five, all the way through my undergraduate college year, and therefore I had a lot of Latin.

Susan Bratton:  OK

Mike Donahue:  And the word medium is the singular, and the word media is plural.  Now, if you don’t, most people don’t have Latin any more, but when I hear about the fact that when somebody says that print is a great media, it’s like rubbing, uh, fingernails on a blackboard for me. 

Susan Bratton:  Mmm hmm.

Mike Donahue:  Because print is the singular verb, singular noun, and media is a plural noun.  So print is a great medium, but print and outdoor are great media.

Susan Bratton:  Got it

Mike Donahue:  So that’s, that’s what I mean.  Now you have to understand I used to, I did a fair amount, when I was in college, I did a fair amount of English tutoring, and I used to write, uh, stories for newspapers, so I’m a little bit, uh, I’m a little bit prejudiced when it comes to the use of the English language.  Or in this case the Latin language.

Susan Bratton:  So what other opinions do you have about words and the English language?

Mike Donahue:  Well, there’s one word that I, that I’m always amused by, by how many different ways it can be interpreted.  And that word is the word joint.  And, you know, this is a family show so we probably can’t get into all the things that joint can connote, but it certainly is a word that has all sorts of meanings.  And that one is always, is always kind of fascinating.

Susan Bratton:  So are you a killer Scrabble player?

Mike Donahue:  Um, I like to, yeah, I’m pretty good at Scrabble.  I’m not as good as my thirteen year old daughter.

Susan Bratton:  Really?

Mike Donahue:  I mean, my, my, we do a crossword puzzle every day, and my thirteen year old gets more, more words, I tell you how good my thirteen year old daughter is with words.  She Googlewhacked, first time she ever Googlewhacked, you know what Googlewhacking is?

Susan Bratton:  I don’t

Mike Donahue:  Googlewhacking is going, is doing a Google search, and trying, putting a combination of words together that has the fewest possible answers.  The first time she did it, she did one that had one.  And when I tell my friends at Google that, they said that happens incredibly rarely.  The two words she put together were creamery and corn, and there hadn’t been any other, there hadn’t, that had one other, you know, one reference to it.  It was in one article somewhere.  Whereas if you were to put Susan Bratton in Google, you would probably get twenty thousand hits.

Susan Bratton:  Haha.  I don’t know it’s that many Mike.

Mike Donahue:  No, you’d get a lot.

Susan Bratton:  And, you know it’s funny, because creamery and corn I understand, but I love creamed corn.

Mike Donahue:  Yes

Susan Bratton:  Like Homer Simpson, creamed corn arrrrr

Mike Donahue:  Creamed corn would have probably gotten a lot, but creamery corn, I don’t know where she even got the word creamery but it had one uh, it had one hit, so she, she’s pretty uh, she also happens to write poetry.  When she was ten years old she wrote a poem at her, at her fourth grade teacher’s suggestion that got second prize in the, uh, Cricket magazine contest that year.  She’d never written a poem before so, uh, yeah.  I tell you she once wrote a poem about baseball.  And one of my really good friends is Phil Dusenberry who is a classic advertising writer, in fact he’s the one who was my partner in that television show I was telling you about before.  And, um, he happened to write the screenplay for the movie The Natural, which is one of the great sports movies of all time.  And I sent Phil her poem, which was about a baseball player, and he said “Well Mike”, he said “we don’t usually hire ten year old copywriters but maybe she’d work with us on a freelance basis”

Susan Bratton:  Haha.  So do you think she’ll follow in your footsteps and go into the ad business?  Or what, is it too soon to tell that she’s got tons of capability?

Mike Donahue:  It’s really too soon to tell, I mean she likes it, she has no aversion to it, but at this point I think my son is probably going to go into the business somewhere, although his favorite area right now is the money business.  He’s reading Jim Kramer’s book on how to invest, and uh, well he has a little bit of money from his grandfather, and he’s, you know, trying to figure out the best way to invest.  These days, he’ll probably just sit on the sidelines and wait for this market, market craziness to bottom out, but any rate.  Yes, so, but Lily, I think Lily will do something where she has the opportunity to use her incredible gift with words but I just don’t know what it’s going to be.

Susan Bratton:  Well, one of the things that I, you’re a proud poppa, and I love that, and, one of the things that you like to do, that I’ve learned by just watching you, is that you like to foster people, and foster connections.  You’re very much a person who has the ability and the power to create platforms for others to thrive.  And I think one of the things that you kicked off was a pretty huge catalyst and that is something about Al Gore.

Mike Donahue:  Well, about two years ago this time, when we were beginning to program the media, uh, four A’s media conference of February 2006, um, in the Summer 2005, um, I got a call from a young man who works for Vice President Gore.  And he said uh, “we would like very much for the Vice President to speak at your media conference”, and I said “well, that sounds like a pretty good idea.  What would he like to speak about?”  And he said, well he’d like to come on and talk about, uh, current, what’s his, citizen media, which is his venture.  And I said “well”, I said “I’d love to have the Vice President speak, but I can’t have him talk about citizen media”, because I don’t let anybody, you know, basically sell their…

Susan Bratton:  Yeah, he was asking for a pitch!

Mike Donahue:  Yeah he’s asked for a pitch, and I said we just can’t do that.  This young guy was a little upset, who, do I have the temerity to turn down the Vice President.  I said “well before you get too exercised, let me give you a suggestion”.  I said “there are two areas that I know the Vice President is very passionate about”.  One of them is the internet, um, and I do believe he came up with the term Information Superhighway.  And as he would admit, he didn’t invent the internet although some people claim that he said he did.  But he definitely has enormous interest in the internet.  The other thing I said I know he’s interested in, because he’s been at this for twenty years, is the climate crisis.  And I said that I happen to know that next Spring he’s coming at us with, Spring of 06, he’s coming out with a book called An Inconvenient Truth, and a documentary to follow.  Um, and I would be glad to give him a platform to talk about that, and if he can find a way to sort of integrate a citizen media into that, he’s got a platform.  So, he did, that was February of 06, the first time he really got before a large group of influential people like our media folks and, I talked to him about a half hour before.  When he stood up to introduce his film, he said I just want to, I just have a call out here, he said I just want to thank Mike Donahue for inviting me to this conference.  And that was kind of nice, from the Vice President of the United States.  So that was kind of cool.  But subsequently I met a man at Google Zeitgeist event.  I go to the Google Zeitgeist every year.  And I walked up to him and I said, Mr Vice President, you probably remember me from, you know, from, he said “ah that’s right you got me in the four A’s media conference”, I said “why, you got a good memory”.  I said I just want to tell you that you got me in a lot of trouble, and he stopped me and he said “what do you mean?”  And I said “well you know, you were nice enough to call out, call me out as, as the one responsible” and right, my boss says “why does he insist on calling you out, I’m the one who runs this joint”.  Well of course Burtch never did that but…

Susan Bratton:  Haha

Mike Donahue:  But anyway, he’s a very engaging person, very easy to talk to, and I have a lot of respect for the, for what he’s done and the passion he brings to the things.  Like I just saw Kevin Ward at our Account Cleaning conference last week who was talking about Live 7 which of course was done very much with the help of Vice President Gore to, to continue to evangelize about that very important issue.

Susan Bratton:  Well, um, I have always been really impressed with the oratory skills of Al Gore, and I got to see him present An Inconvenient Truth at the TED conference.

Mike Donahue:  Oh you went to TED, oh boy.

Susan Bratton:  Yah, and I, that’s where I met Sir Ken Robinson.

Mike Donahue:  Haha

Susan Bratton:  And he was on Dishy Mix maybe two or three weeks ago, and he’s a lovely man.

Mike Donahue:  I know him, did I mention to you…

Susan Bratton:  No

Mike Donahue:  Well, last week, um, I tell you this is another little anecdote.  A week ago Friday, um, I got a call at home from the two people who run my account planning conference which was going to be in San Diego the following Monday.  And they said we have this enormous problem, the keynote speaker just called us and told us that his wife is a, is about to have a baby, he thought it was going to be a month later, but she’s going to deliver early and he, he can’t do it.  And this is Friday at five o’clock, and the keynote speaker was on at Monday at nine.

Susan Bratton:  Mmm hmm.

Mike Donahue:  And so Karen Proctor who runs our conferences said, uh, “I have an idea”, and I said “well what’s that”.  He said “remember Sir Kenneth Robinson who you met at, um, Microsoft SIS summit, uh, earlier this, last year” and I said “oh sure”.  “Well, he’s in Los Angeles and he could do this.”  I said “Grab him.  He’s incredible.”

Susan Bratton:  Yeah

Mike Donahue:  Well, Susan, he got the number one rating.  Either number one or number two rating, we’re still getting our survey results in.  Uh, at our conference last week, and he was remarkable.

Susan Bratton:  Yah.  He, he, he’s poignant.  You know, he just brings out amazing emotions, and, anybody who’s listening, you know, you can hear him on Dishy Mix but, and that’s good too, and you can also see him on the TED talks, if you go to TED.com.

Mike Donahue:  Ah

Susan Bratton:  And look at the TED talks.  There’s a video of him presenting about creativity and innovation and education that’s really good.

Mike Donahue:  Well that’s what he did last week, yes.

Susan Bratton:  Yah, that’s kind of his thing.  You know he presents to over fifty thousand people a year?

Mike Donahue:  Is that right?

Susan Bratton:  Yah he’s a big speaker.  Now, I have a question for you, and this is my, I have two more things I want to talk to you about and then we have to finish up.  The first one is that while I have you here, and you’re too completely captive, I want some free advice.  And then the second thing is, that I’m going to ask you…

Mike Donahue:  Is that free advice on how to make my killer Margarita, or is that…

Susan Bratton:  No! The last thing we’re going to end with is your recipe for a killer Margarita.

Mike Donahue:  OK

Susan Bratton:  So, here’s my free advice question.  Uh, I don’t know if you know this, and if you don’t it’s absolutely no problem.  Um, I, with a number of other companies formed an industry association called The Association for Downloadable Media.

Mike Donahue:  Yes

Susan Bratton:  And we’re really just trying to work with podcast, individual podcasters and media companies, and then all of the peripheral organizations that are taking content and making it portable and downloadable.  And then being able to track that, manage audience metrics, um, do ad serving, and campaign changes, and, you know, media advocacy, and all of the things that a typical media-based organization does.  What, we’re just forming now, we’re just doing our membership drive, we’re getting ready to have our first vote for all of our offices, right, so it’s just been a loose group of people who have kind of created the platform so we can have the elections to bring in the officers.  What’s your advice for the first couple of years, for an industry association, like the Association for Downloadable Media?  Best advice, Mike Donahue, take it away.

Mike Donahue:  I would try to get some very, uh, visible people, uh, like Pete Blackshaw to talk about what you guys can do and have done.  I mean, if you can find some people and Pete, this is right up Pete’s alley, as I’m sure you know.  People like Pete who pretty much can get, um, can get publicity with whatever they do, I would do that.  I would also, um, try to work very closely with another trade association head who is basically in your space and that’s Randy Rothenburg.  Randy is doing remarkable things at the IAB, he took over from Greg.  And Greg was incredible in driving that organization to where it is, and I think Randy’s going to take it to now where it can be.  And I think Randy would be very interested I think to talk to you, and give you some advice.  I think you um, I think you probably, I think you need to focus your membership drive on people who are, who are only doing what your basic mission is, uh, I think some trade associations make the mistake of trying to get different constituencies in who don’t really, who aren’t really on point.  I mean one of the reasons we’re successful is that the only people who can be members of our association are communication agencies.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah

Mike Donahue:  You know we don’t, we can’t take, we don’t take media, we don’t take house agencies, you know, and the more focused you can be, the better off you are, and you’re in the sweet spot, because downloadable media is just, is just growing like crazy.
I think that advice from a guy like Pete, advice from a guy like Randy, I think um, you know, getting the opportunity to come and talk to one of our appropriate committees is definitely something I think, you know, I can probably make happen for you, uh, as you get started.  Uh, you know, it’s just getting, you know, getting, uh, circulation, and then once you get circulation then you’ll have currency.

Susan Bratton:  Mmm hmm, nice.  Circulation equals currency.  That’s a good one.  Well I appreciate the free advice, and now for our listeners who maybe aren’t, don’t have as much interest in the Association for Downloadable Media, they like to listen to podcasts but they might not be producing podcasts.  Everybody likes a good Margarita.  You say you have a killer recipe.  Is it true?

Mike Donahue:  Well I do, this is, you know I’m not going to be the least bit modest about this.

Susan Bratton:  Haha

Mike Donahue:  But, um, my recipe is very simple.  The proportions are one, two and three, and the critical element is the first one.  And that is frozen limeade.  OK?  Now you say, why frozen limeade?  Well, if you take six ounces of frozen limeade, what you get is the base for this drink, is a combination of sweet and sour.

Susan Bratton:  Mmm hmm

Mike Donahue:  And it’s really, so if you take six ounces of frozen limeade, twelve ounces of Tequila, preferably the gold kind, but not necessarily, and then eighteen ounces of crushed ice, so you’re looking at thirty six ounces of liquid, and then just keep doing those one two three proportions.  You know twelve ounce can of limeade, eighteen ounces of Tequila.  Thirty, uh, you know, um.

Susan Bratton:  Six, twelve, eighteen

Mike Donahue:  Yeah, and then uh, ice, and then um, you know, and say goodnight to Susan.

Susan Bratton:  Haha.  Alright.  Well.  Haha.  That, I have to go with that segue.  Good night Mike.

Mike Donahue:  Good night

Susan Bratton:  Haha

Mike Donahue:  Thank you very much, see you.

Susan Bratton:  It was really good to have you on, thank you for sharing your recipe, your personal life, your opinions, your history.  We loved it all.

Mike Donahue:  OK, thanks very much.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah it was really fun Mike.  Uh, for those of you who’ve been listening, you’ve been listening to Mike Donahue, he’s the Executive Vice President of the American Association for Advertising Agencies.  Stay tuned we’ll have a couple of short, end, commercials from our sponsors, and I hope you’ll be tuning in next week to Dishy Mix.  For texts and transcripts of this show, or any of the shows, on Personal Life Media, go to personallifemedia.com, that’s with two L’s.  You can also send an email to me at [email protected] with comments, or you can post them on the blog at dishymix.com.  Look forward to hearing your comments, your questions, your ideas, and thanks for tuning in.  Have a great day. 

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