The Talented Mr. Cantena
Ask anyone who knows him to describe Carmine Catena and three common descriptives come to mind: fun-loving, talented and incredibly intelligent. Catena's talents manifest in many ways: his uncanny ability to recite virtually any line from his favorite gangster movies or his willingness to share his love for music by plopping down on a nearby piano stool and gently coercing the keys to sound out a complex Mozart melody. But his skill extends far beyond personal interests. His stellar career in the advertising industry reflects his
special abilities, as well.
Reflections of days gone by
"In college I was a communications major, and I got my B.A. in that field because I was interested in public relations. What I found was that those types of jobs required a lot of writing, and I soon discovered that maybe that wasn't my thing," recalls Catena. "After college, my wife had been working as the director print services at Cunningham & Walsh, and she introduced me to one of her colleagues at Fairfax Advertising. I went to interview for a job there—for $9,000 a year—and I found that there were 30 people waiting to be interviewed ahead of me. I don't know how, but I got the job. It had been kind of a strange interview. The guy who hired me told me, 'I don't even know why I'm hiring you. I just like you.' Literally, I had no experience, but I guess we just hit it off, and he decided to give me a break."
In hindsight, it was Catena's big break into the ad industry, although his stint with Fair-fax lasted six months before he was called onward.
"I started out as a trafficker at the Wil-liam Esty Agency," recalls Catena. "In those days, it was one of the most profitable agencies in the U.S. They worked with all blue-chip clients like Nabisco, R.J. Reynolds and Datsun. I learned a lot while I was there—about trafficking and working on major accounts."