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Amidst the Devastation – A Special Edition of Marty’s Marketing Minutia

American ad man reports on life in a devastated Japan.

by on Mar.22, 2011

The worst damage occurred in Northeast Japan, but the impact has been felt across the country.

The television hit show Mad Men has cast a disparaging eye on the advertising industry and the talented people I’ve been proud to work in and with for almost five decades. But even as the media has kept us informed round the clock of the horror in Japan: the devastation of the 8.9 earthquake, the apocalyptic tsunami and the precarious and dangerous nuclear disaster in the making, it’s been impersonal reporting. Missing in the 24/7 coverage has been appropriate poignancy, personal comments and non-journalistic l observations.

I knew that a friend and really good guy and ad-man, Russell Wager (okay he’s a suit) had moved last summer from David and Goliath as managing partner and group client director on the Kia account (yea, Hamsters) to a really big job in Tokyo, Japan as the president of TBWA \ Hakuhodo part of the Omnicom Group.  A really big and important job with a really big and important agency serving really big and important clients.

After the quake I’d sent Russ an email wishing him and Dawn, his wife, (also an ad person), well following the earthquake and tsunami. He responded saying they were okay – I should read Dawn’s daily blog — but that he had to walk 26 kilometers from the client’s office in Yokohama to his home in Tokyo on the day of the event. As a former agency suit myself, I admired and respected his great strength, courage and steel cajones.

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This led to another email asking if we could chat about his experiences and the impact on personal and professional life in Japan which we did in an amazing forty-five minute Skype call.  As we talked his words and descriptions brought frightening, terrifying pictures and visuals from telecasts and newspapers to mind. What follows is my transcription of Russ’ thoughts and comments from the day of the quake till last Friday.