On Setting Standards

I worked with both Ray and Nancy on a constant basis from early in my freelance writing career, which began in 1983, until they moved to Arizona in the 1990s. I have a number of memories of Ray, all positive, but what really struck me as I was remembering him this morning was how he help me learn the ropes at the very beginning of my freelancing career.

I had made an abrupt move from account supervisor to freelance copywriter because I one day woke up and realized I couldn't stand being a "suit" anymore. I looked around for staff positions and nothing was available, so I took the plunge and became a freelancer. Ray--through the organization called Nelson-Pannullo-Jutkins--was one of my first clients.

Although I had been writing for awhile, I was pretty green in the business side of being a freelancer. There is an ethical standard everybody has to determine for themselves, and Ray helped me to set my standard high. I remember a situation where we were selling a client's corporate logo item and were going to show it on a desk. I suggested (this was 1983, and we all smoked like chimneys) that we accessorize it with an ashtray. Ray wouldn't do it. He said here was too much smoking in the world and he didn't want to do anything to encourage it.

On that same project, there was a creative mix up that cost Ray some money. I've forgotten the details, but remember my mortification when the art director quickly pointed the finger at me. I was panicked... This was the kind of agency infighting I was trying to get away from... But Ray immediately saw through it and told me I had done nothing wrong and shouldn't worry about it. Imagine my relief at discovering a code of ethics and fair play in advertising!

Ray also encouraged me to start speaking at industry events which brought me many new friends and experiences over the years. I admired, but never completely mastered, Ray's ability to be generous with information in a seminar yet leave 'em wanting just a bit more with the result they'd hire Ray. I did work on a number of the accounts he generated this way. The clients were invariably practicing what Ray had preached for business-to-business marketing and the results were almost invariably satisfying.

The last time I spoke to Ray was soon after he'd been diagnosed with leukemia, so that would be 2-3 years ago. I wanted to offer my perspective because my ex-wife, Judith, had died of leukemia in 1994. I wanted to make myself available to talk about the process of discovery we went through in case there was anything that could help, and also wanted to tell him how relatively fortunate he was to have the disease nearly a decade later because of advances in the field.

Ray was generous with his time in discussing his own condition, but politely declined my more detailed insights. He intended to fight this his own way, I realized. And did. I marveled as I continued to receive notices about Ray's Halloween gatherings and such as if nothing had changed. And, really it hadn't. Ray, you're a force of nature too powerful to be extinguished. See you down the road.

Otis Maxwell, freelance copywriter
San Francisco, California

 
 

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With fond memories of Ray and with deep respect for his family.
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