This Man Changed Advertising Forever


I thought I knew everything there was to know about Howard Gossage. Or, as Alex Bogusky has been known to refer to him, Harold Gossage! For years, I have been convinced that the man was, without a doubt, the single most important influence on advertising of all time.

That’s why, over the years I have shamelessly referenced, ripped off and homaged Gossage in my blogs, columns and books.

Yet for all that, Steve Harrison’s recent book on Gossage “Changing the world is the only fit work for a grown man,” is a veritable treasure trove of new information and insights on the man described as “The Socrates of San Francisco,” who in my humble opinion would be better served by being described as “The Cicero of San Francisco.”            

Unlike the Greek, the Roman was described as erudite, charming and rather vain, which matches Gossage perfectly. Obviously, Steve covers the full panoply of Howard’s ground breaking work for everything from Irish Whiskey.

“Flahoolick.” To the environment, “Saving the Grand Canyon.” He also covers the amazing range of people he met, nurtured, encouraged and influenced, from Tom Wolfe to Marshall McLuhan, all of which would gather back at The Firehouse for long, alcoholic fuelled get-togethers. On any given day the office (which never housed more than 13 employees) must have looked like a nineteenth century Parisian salon.

Not only does Steve Harrison interview anyone still living who had any kind of interaction with Howard, he must have spent an inordinate amount of time going through the dumpster at the back of The Firehouse to have amassed an amazing number of Howard’s original typed and hand written letters.

I urge you to read ‘Changing the world is the only fit work for a grown man

not just because it is the definitive reference work on an extraordinary man, but also because it contains an amazing amount of stuff I have never seen anywhere else…

For instance, in the first few pages of the very first chapter, we are informed that actress, Sally Kemp, Howard’s wife to be, saw him across a crowded room and declared “I would give anything to meet a man like that.” At the time she was going out with Richard Burton, in his pre-Liz, pre-ferocious boozing days. She dumped “Dickie” and married Howard. Smart lady. Smart man. Be “Flahoolick.” Buy this book today.

George Parker has spent more than 40 years on Madison Avenue. He’s won Lions, CLIOs, EFFIES, and the David Ogilvy Award. His blog is, which he describes as, “required reading for those looking for a piss & vinegar view of the world’s second oldest profession.” His latest book, “Confessions of a Mad Man,” makes the TV show “Mad Men” look like “Sesame Street.”

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