Family business: A rare visit from my father (Larry Postaer) coincides with even rarer story about his agency (RPA).
August 25, 2010
Dad just visited with my family in Chicago. A short trip, he was in route to Detroit for a business meeting. In addition to seeing his three granddaughters, we took him to Millennium Park –a Chicago sight he had not yet seen. His visit was short but everyone had a good time.
Because his longtime and current place of residence is Los Angeles, many people mistakenly believe my father is from California. In fact, he hails from the south side of Chicago. He grew up in Our Town, beginning his copywriting career working on the Sears catalogue and later for the now-defunct advertising agency, Stern Walters & Simmons. In the seventies, he took a job at Needham Harper & Steers, which, as many of you know, became DDB Needham and now DDB. In the early eighties he moved west becoming Needham LA’s lead creative. When they merged with Doyle Dane Bernbach a conflict arose between two major car accounts, Honda and Volkswagen. Reluctant to give up Honda, dad and his partner (Gerry) acquired the LA office renaming it Rubin Postaer & Associates. That was almost thirty years ago.
Much to my delight –and I’m sure his- dad has not retired from the agency he co-founded, now known as RPA. Up until recently, my father served as the agency’s Chief Creative Officer. He still serves in an emeritus fashion.
While at my home I mentioned a story I’d just seen on Agency Spy regarding the promotion of folks from RPA’s creative department. My dad’s reaction: “What’s Agency Spy?”
I love my dad.
His lack of knowledge about that website and others like it is less from ignorance than calculated indifference. Here is the story: Many years ago Larry was called by an advertising journalist from the Wall Street Journal. He was asked about a Buick commercial that seemingly aped one of his agency’s better Honda spots. Dad made a joke about it: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flatulence.” A dust-up ensued in the press, which culminated in my father being chastised by Honda. The Japanese aren’t much for braggadocio.
Since then, my father has demurred from the trade press –both for himself and his agency. So much so, he even took his name out of the agency’s name! Instead of chasing publicity like so many of us (any ink is good ink, right?), dad reminds me of another old saying: the tall nail gets pounded first.
Nothing makes the old man happier than Honda’s continuous leadership status in the automotive world, yet RPA takes no credit. Nor do they seek it. He and his agency are rightfully appreciative of their long-term relationship, almost singular in its rarity, and will not compromise it for anything, especially the transient accolades of our business. Which is a big reason why, despite being perhaps the largest privately held advertising agency left in America, one seldom hears about RPA, good or bad. Think about agencies like Crispin Porter & Bogusky or BBDO and people like Martin Sorrel and Howard Draft. What a difference, right?
Not lost on me is the fact that I am anything but a wallflower when it comes to this business or my own business. And Lord knows the flames that attracted me have burned me. Recently, I wrote about this topic. Whether I ever learn my lesson or not, let me state, unequivocally, that such vainglory does not come from my father!