David E. Davis on Mad Men and Elmore Leonard
The late David E. Davis in a posthumously published article in The National discusses the advertising business, his take on “Mad Men” and what he learned working with Elmore at the Campbell Ewald Agency in Detroit in the early Sixties.
Elmore Leonard was my guide and mentor during my first tentative efforts as a copywriter. He was not the world-famous writer that he is today. He rose early every morning and wrote western novels, researched in the pages of Arizona Highways magazine. He taught me to read my copy aloud before turning it in, and to write like I talked. I found over the months that I was also beginning to talk like I wrote. It is true to this day.
Elmore was a highly regarded and much-loved star in the agency’s creative department. His main assignment was Chevrolet truck testimonial advertising. Dealers would suggest fleet operators in their territories who were using Chevrolet trucks for difficult work in challenging circumstances, and Elmore would pay them a visit, talk to the truck drivers and create the ads and catalogues. This sometimes led to late evenings in the local Veteran of Foreign Wars Hall, where Elmore would attempt to draw the drivers out, encouraging them to wax colourful on their love for their Chevys. As the evenings wore on, descriptions often became unprintable. The slight, bespectacled writer from the ad agency would be regarded as the bringer of some great morning-after plague.