Advertising Legends Descend on NYC

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Spencer McAfee-Gundrum, Special to Advertising Week

It’s a special thing to hear gods speak. And on one particular morning on Advertising Week’s Times Center Stage, the gods of advertising did.

“These are our very favorite people and they were chosen for that very reason,” said Advertising Week CEO Matt Scheckner, introducing the legendary group.

A group of industry panelists joined together on stage to talk about charismatic leadership -- a talent they each possess -- and, in the process, they shared priceless insights about the industry. Keith Reinhard, the DDB Chairman Emeritus and one of the speakers during the panel discussion, hardly needed an introduction. He birthed the Big Mac and State Farm jingles, and is a recipient of the Clio Lifetime Achievement Award.  

Asked what the biggest industry change has been since his time in the business, Reinhard explained that “unprecedented change happens every year.”

He continued, “What hasn’t changed is great to recognize. Human nature is timeless. Our job to connect our client’s brand with that human nature is still essential.”

Speaking with Reinhard on stage was DDB North America CEO Wendy Clark. She doubled down on Reinhard’s point with action. Clark said everyone’s goal is to do great work. From her perspective, it’s her job to make that possible. Clark said that’s why DDB has a nine-month old policy about being as diverse and inclusive as the marketplace they address.

Diversity and inclusivity were well-covered themes at this year’s Advertising Week, and a common take on them was that attention to internal culture ultimately drives productivity and profitability.

“One of the things we did at Canvas to attract employees was to speak to their desire to be a part of building something,” said Paul Woolmington, CEO of Canvas Worldwide.

Also on stage was Bill Koenigsberg, the founder of Horizon Media, also known as the company responsible for launching Canvas. Koenigsberg said the name “Canvas” came from the idea of painting something every day, of having a fresh and vibrant culture at the core of operations.

Many of the leaders on stage also had comments on the current trend aiming toward data-driven creativity. It was another well-covered theme at this year’s event.

CP+B Chairman Chuck Porter pointedly said, “data is great, but not at making the work.”

Many speakers agreed that, ultimately, audiences crave inspiration more than facts. Kieth Reinhard put it this way: “We’ve always needed data to tell us facts. Today, we often have more facts than we need and it’s harder to find the one that’s insightful. We’ve known forever that fables are more persuasive.”

Indeed, there is a reason we find narrative paintings in ancient caves and not numbers. There is a reason the world’s oldest cultures valued stories so much - they are the most compelling tool in the human arsenal.

Albert Einstein said “imagination is more important than knowledge.” As Bill Bernbach put it, “I warn you against believing that advertising is a science.”

On this stage, in this conflict between creativity and science, creativity won out. But just downstairs on a stage sponsored by ADARA, the opposite was undoubtedly taking place.

Advertising creatives have long made use of a technique they lifted from improvisation groups. If you’ve ever seriously brainstormed in this industry, you know what “yes, and” means. Rather than squashing someone’s idea, you improve it. Rather than “no,” you always think “yes, and what about this too.”

If we take that lesson and use it well, we may realize that we can say yes to creativity and yes to science, all in the same breath.