Thursday, March 4, 2021

I wonder what would happen. If...

About twice a month I run across a site or an article or a something that absolutely slays me.

In the past when this happened, I'd come to work fairly popping out of my skin. I couldn't wait to share what I had found with my work neighbors, friends and colleagues.

Of course, that neighborliness phenomenon is all gone now. First, I no longer work in an office. Second, no one else does, either.

Yet, one of the few things that make life bearable--and even
fun--is sharing. Sharing ideas. Sharing what you've found. Sharing sparks on our collective human kindling.

To compensate for our lack of community, when the Plague began, I started sending to about seventy friends an email I called "Cool Things for Cool People." 

Though we are all atomized today, I wanted something for us all to share, pass-along, enjoy and learn from. I think that was the original idea behind us all sitting out in the open. That we'd talk and exchange ideas and laugh and learn. 

Not that we'd all sit staring at flickering screens with blather-canceling headphones blocking out everything that we're supposed to be able to let in.

Ergo, my list.

But my emails aren't the point today.

As I sent out my note at 6:30 yesterday morning, I realized I had one Agency CEO on my list. 

Only one.

Yes, he happened to come from a creative background.

But only one.

That's Rob Schwartz. CEO of TBWA\\Chiat\Day NY and a friend and some-time colleague. 

I sent Rob a note about the post. I asked him if I could use his name. Self-important people--ie wastes of protoplasm, hide behind their illusions of importance and take days to respond to emails--if they respond at all. It gives them a misplaced and inflated sense of power. 

Good people respond right-away. No one's so busy that they have the right to stop being human and polite. (As an aside, America's most-famous book editor, Robert Gottleib always reads manuscripts the day he gets them. He has enough empathy to know the writer's soul and to know that hearing back matters.)

In any event, Rob wrote back in about 12 minutes. A little slow for him.

His counsel is as good as you're going to get in any day and age. Here's what Rob wrote:

"I have a deep vein of thinking on this. 

"CEOs need to be product-lovers. Like Enzo Ferrari. Quincy Jones. Anita Roddick. 

"We had this in advertising. Look no further than Bernbach. Or Mary Wells. 

"What about at the holding company level? Bruce Crawford of Omnicom was a creative. That was a good start.

"Closer to home for me...the W of TBWA, Uli Weissendanger was a writer. As was Jay Chiat and Guy Day. (Both ran the agency.) Bob Kuperman was an Art Director before he became president of LA and ultimately, North America.

"Product people who love the product. And then orient the enterprise to produce it and produce it well.

"That’s the way it should be." 

I know a lot of CEOs in the business. But I don't include them on my periodic emails because in my stern judgment, passion for creativity (not just "culture" or trends) doesn't extend, generally speaking, to them.

In fact, I'm not sure there are many in that rarefied suite even know any creatives--real doing creatives, not creatificators. I don't think there are that many in the C-suite where creativity is seen as a unique differentiator. I think it was Bernbach who called creativity "the last legal competitive advantage."

I'm not talking Chief Creative Officers here. I send my e to a gaggle or two of them.

I'm talking about CEOs, specifically. 

The people who should be passionate about the business. 

And, sorry lovers of content, analytics, data, technology, finance, programmatic, strategy, optimization and more. This business doesn't just include creativity. In fact, it should be centered on creativity.

If you're a CEO reading this--or, more likely, a CEO having one of your minions reading it to you because 'it's a lot of words,' send me a note. My email isn't hard to find.

Write to me, show me, prove to me you give a shit about creativity. Tell me your favorite VW ad. Your favorite commercial. Your favorite line of copy. Or headline. Or photographer. Or illustrator. Or art.

If there are enough of you who convince me, I'll add you to my list. I'll also write a blog post called "CEOs that believe in Creativity." And I'll include something about you in the post. 

This post will probably never get written. I don't think there are enough CEOs that care. Certainly not enough at the Holding Company stratosphere.

But consider this:

At the bottom of Rob's emails, there's always some text under his name and title, almost as an afterthought. Something most CEOs would crave, but few actually help earn. 

The type is small but important. It reads:

An AdAge A-List Agency

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