Old MacDonald Had a Silo


‘Gramma Peterson loved this one’

My just-completed jury duty reminds me of my days of going on commercial shoots. You know, scores of random people thrown together for long stretches of downtime and boredom, interrupted by bursts of furious activity.

One thing you were sure to get out of a commercial shoot, though: a great story. Not always the story you went out to shoot, but a great story nonetheless.

Here’s one of my favorites.

I was working with my boss, a great art director and native New Yorker who shall remain nameless. Though if you were active in the business Back In The Day, you may recognize him in the picture above. (Hint: he’s not the one in the blue glasses; that’s me. I guess blue glasses and I go back awhile.)

Anyway. For those of you who don’t know, it’s the art director’s responsibility to choose the location for the shoot. The location being where the commercial will be shot. The commercial of which we speak was for Country Time Lemonade-Flavored Drink Mix (yes, that’s the full name of the product, made by General Foods, now defunct. At least GF is defunct; not sure about Country Time.)

So. This commercial was to be shot on a farm. If you remember the commercials for Country Time, they always included a bunch of kids yelling out ‘Grandpa! Grandpa! How about some good old-fashioned lemonade?!?’ To which Grandpa would invariably reply ‘Hey kids, how about some Country Time Lemonade-Flavored Drink Mix!’ Seriously.

Well, this commercial was different. We had this idea to buy the rights to the song ‘In the Good Old Summertime’ and change the lyrics so it went like this: ‘In the good old sum-mer-ti-ime, we’ll be drinking Country Time’. We’d shoot the commercial on a farm. For atmosphere, we said. But it was really so we could lose the kids — and Grandpa too if we were lucky.

So we had to pick a farm to shoot on. The art director looked and looked. He was feeling a tad insecure about his farm-selection powers, since he was such a City Kid. So he asked for my help, Midwestern Girl that I am. I go through the stacks of photos and select a likely bunch of farms.

He looks at the pictures, scratches his head, purses his lips and asks me what are all those buildings? (He thinks farms come with, like, just a house and a barn.) So I explain, pointing out the chicken house, the shed — and the silo.

‘Silo?’ he asks. ‘Silo?’ (big pause) ‘They have nuclear missiles on this farm?’

This story really cracked up my Grandma Peterson.

I have tons of stories like this one. Anyone else out there want to share a shoot story?

Amagansett, New York. August 2014

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

21 thoughts on “Old MacDonald Had a Silo

  1. angelanoelauthor

    More stories about your experiences, please!! I don’t have any “shoot” stories. But I did split my pants on the last day of my last restaurant job. I even went home to change and came back to finish the day. I laughed all the way to the car and didn’t even bother to hide my exposed underwear. I definitely used the word “shoot” on that occasion, followed by snorts of laughter. So- kinda related?

    • ‘Shoot’, Angela! Not only are we ‘related’, I think we’re joined at the story-telling hip! And, speaking of ad-biz stories, I’ve got a million of ’em. Well, maybe a dozen or so. You can check them out any time you like by clicking on the ‘Adland Lore’ link on my homepage. Oh, and thanks!!!

    • Now THAT is a great little factoid, Jenn! I love how there are so many connections in Life, don’t you? (And even more glad that I get to connect with you soon in Real Life) xoxoxoxo

  2. I am digging the blue glasses, Alice! I’m a midwesterner, but the suburbanite kind. My grandma grew up on a farm, though, so I have a couple tidbits of information stored away, if I should ever need them.

    • Ooh! Becca! I love not only that you are a fellow Midwesterner, but that you have some “farm experience” too — of the grandparent-related kind. But even more than that, I love that you might share some stories from those times. I have a few more in my Memory Bank, too (big surprise). Thanks for weighing in, and so glad you like blue glasses. You can see from my “official pic” that I still do (!)

  3. Ahahahaha, that’s fantastic! I am a city girl but we moved out into the country, and really anyone from Winnipeg knows your basic farm info. Grain silos are pretty much the most boring place on the planet, missiles would really jazz them up (though probably contaminate the grain….)

  4. Patty Lyon

    great story Alice! Unnamed Harvey cracked us up a lot. His ‘mountain top’ pitch to clients became a mantra. Country Time is still around! Grandpa is not.

    • Thanks, Patty! Oh, how I would love to hear the Mountain Top speech. I did get to hear choice Harvey Lines like (if something was boring) ‘It’s Wheatina’. Or ‘It lays there like a lox’. And if something was good — ‘I gotta tell ya. You took a flower, and made it a meadow.’ High praise.

  5. Adrian Lichter

    I worked through the arc of agency travel from “the client wants it, you pay for it” (man, were those great hotels and meals), to mandated hotel rates and set per diems (that really works well in LA). The former was much more fun than the latter.

    A $50 snow pea? So what. It’s in the budget.

    • Hey thanks, Jayne. I’ve got a million of ’em.
      Can’t decide whether the next one will be about the snakes on the Depend shoot, or the client who thought his Pantene shoot was a movie set. Or both.

  6. Adrian Lichter

    Alice Dearest,

    I once went to Very Southern Alabama with said unnamed art director. He arrived wearing a suit. “Fish out of water” does not begin to give you the whole picture.

    • Good one, Adrian!
      But Unnamed AD was quick. At dinner once out in L.A., at a very expensive restaurant (Michael’s in Santa Monica, I believe), he looked at his fork, then announced to the table ‘This is not a snow pea; this is fifty bucks’.

  7. Alex Fallon

    Love this, Alice. When I was at Ogilvy I drew a duck with 4 legs and it was immediately pinned up on my office door (offices used to have doors!). Art Directors from the city have their limitations, I guess.

I'd love to hear from you