The Money Room: Of Eggs, Sliders, and Gum

This entry is part 12 of 14 in the series The Money Room
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Over the next few months, we are sharing The Money Room, a bit of history written by John Kerr, John Carver, and Sam Tyler whose fundraising careers at WGBH spanned three decades.

By John Carver

I had cultivated a relationship over time with Dennis Fill, president of the drug maker, Squibb. He was New York based, but loved Boston and had a daughter at Tufts.

I invited him to visit the station and a Victory garden taping and that led to an arrangement whereby I scored an appointment with one of Squibb’s many divisions.

Bubble Yum, as its name implies, makes bubble gum. It was my first meeting with the director of public relations.

Usually in my initial meeting with a company I will try to gain some insight as to how the company operates, its chain of command, and its disposition to public broadcasting. But this day I came ready to pitch a particular show called The Spider’s Web. This was an NPR series of reading book stories to children.

As I was in the middle of my sales pitch for underwriting The Spider’s Web, my contact grew increasingly jumpy and nervous to the point where he put his hand out like a cop halting traffic and blurted out, ”OK pal, who put you up to this”?

Confounded, I could only plead ignorance. “I’m sorry, what are you referencing”? “You’re kidding, you mean this is not a joke?” he replied. By now, there was no joking around.

He got up from his desk, went to his conference table and produced a copy of AD WEEK, the weekly industry rag that we all pretend to read. I wished then that I had read it as it told the story of Bubble Yum’s legal and Public Relations battle with spiders eggs having been detected in some of their packaging causing law suits and image issues.

“So Mr. WGBH, here you come pitching some looney idea about a show called The Spider’s Web and what am I to think”? Naturally the meeting ended on a sour note as I flew back home thinking why the hell didn’t I bother to do my homework and keep up with the industry that I was targeting.

My mistake. As far as I know this faux pas never reached Dennis Fill’s ears.

Read more entries in The Money Room series.

Special thanks to Gene Mackles for the series wordmark.

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