I graduated from design school in the late eighties. There were a few avenues for work — graphic design, illustration and advertising. I dabbled in all of them. The more I learned about advertising and the more time I spent in ad agencies, the more fascinated I became. I loved the combinations of words, pictures, sound, music and film. And I liked the people — they were sort of misfits, which seemed like a good match. I freelanced and worked on staff at a few agencies, and realized I wasn’t trained for the conceptual thinking required for truly great work. And the places that would hire me couldn’t teach me how to be as good as I wanted.Someone turned me on to The One Show (1987 Annual). It was an incredible turning point. The book was full of the kind of work I wanted to do — that seemed a little beyond my grasp. So I dropped everything and enrolled in Portfolio Center, at which point my career really began.
What aspect of your work do you really love?
I love the window into different industries and different audiences that comes with each campaign assignment.
But my favorite thing is recruiting. One of my first creative directors, Bill Westbrook, once said in an interview, “My most important job is recruiting. If I recruit great people, great advertising will result.”
Bringing interesting, talented people into a nurturing environment is a joy. And given the advertising industry’s continued lack of diversity, it’s nice to be part of the future rather than the old paths of least resistance.
What’s the most challenging part of what you do?
Getting the work just right is still the hardest and most important thing. But at this stage in my career, cultivating other creative leaders is critical. It’s also daunting.
People who can not only create great ideas, but also inspire enthusiasm for them — within the agency and with clients — are the ones I count on every day. And we’ve got some brilliant people here who do that.
ECDs can actually restrict the creative work and the process — without even knowing it. It’s more important for me to be a cheerleader for the great ideas rather than telling people why the other ones are mediocre.
I try to follow what David Kennedy said years ago: “Our secret has been to hire people better than we are and to get the hell out of their way.”
What’s your dream job?
I have to say, this is it.
Every day I show up to see fabulous ideas and great finished pieces. We’ve got two offices full of talented, gracious people. If I did anything else, it would just be trying to do the same thing we’re doing here now.
Also, I work with four other partners I trust and respect, in an independent company.
A lot of folks in our business put profit and glory first, and then wonder why they end up mired in politics and compromise. If you stick to what you believe in, with people you believe in, everything else will take care of itself.
Any advice for neophytes?
Don’t worry about being “creative.” Focus on simple, human truths.