As you have mentioned before, when comparing the »Mad Men« times and now, things have changed significantly. Clients sometimes think they know better than the experts. Do you expect that to change in the future? How can we bring back the magic?
Clients think they know better than the experts because clients are now hiring experts in-house. Clients are redesigning the way they manage marketing and communications internally, and advertising agencies are failing to reinvent themselves to demonstrate a better way of doing business. You cannot do new world order business from an old world order location. It’s not about ‘bringing back the magic’, it’s about coming up with a whole new kind of magic that is much better and more effective. And it’s very simple to create this new magic – just bring in the talent and creativity of women and people of colour. Diversity drives innovation. True innovation is the result of many different mindsets, perspectives, insights, backgrounds and worldviews, all coming together in constructive creative conflict to reach a far better place that none of us could have found on our own. That's magic.
One of the biggest changes that advertising has encountered is shifting to social media, which comes with the opportunity (and obligation) to be highly responsive to customers in order to really establish a personal touch. How important is this game changer?
Extremely important, because social media demands the ability to be responsive in real-time, which in turn demands a high-trust working environment – one where everyone understands the values of the brand and is therefore empowered to act on those values immediately without having to defer to hierarchy and layers of approval. You can’t get a tweet signed off by seven people before you put it out there in response to a consumer in real time. The existing corporate structure is low-trust, because it’s designed around the fact that the person at the top doesn’t trust the people below, who don’t trust the people below them, who don’t trust the people below them, and it’s one big champagne fountain cascade of low-trust all the way down to the bottom. That’s why we have to completely redesign the way we do business in the world of social media.
Do you feel there is a trust issue that consumers have with brands and advertising?
Looking back at your career, what was the most life changing drastic moment, a brave jump you did, that brought you to where you are now?
I turned 45 in 2005 and had my very own personal mid-life crisis when I realized I’d been working for the same agency for 16 years. BBH is an absolutely wonderful agency and they were 16 amazing years, but I felt it was time to do something different. I didn’t know what, so I decided to put myself on the market very publicly and see what came to me. I took a big leap into the unknown – I resigned as chairman of BBH New York in the summer of 2005 without a job to go to – and it was the best thing I ever did with my life. I am now a huge proponent of working for yourself.
What changes did going from being an advertising executive to being an entrepreneur and your own boss bring to your life?
It took away a lifestyle where I was spending way more than I needed and a corporate environment where I had to toe the line, and it gave me a life where I can achieve the things that I want to achieve and the ability to just be myself.
You tend to voice your opinion on various topics very straightforwardly, whether it is dating, feminism … Were you always so open or did you adopt this approach after years of experience in the business?
It’s the result of 56 years of life. I just believe in saying what I think.
You talk about “the more good you do, the more money you make, so you can do even more good”. Are big companies aware of this or do you feel they don’t do enough when it comes to giving back to society?
Actually what I say is that I want to live in a world where the more good you do, the more money you make, and the more money you make, the more good you do. By which I mean that it’s not about big companies ‘giving back to society’ as an altruistic gesture separate from the business, it’s about finding a way to integrate social responsibility into the way companies do business day to day, so that it becomes a key driver of future growth and profitability. At the moment, companies aren't doing that and this is what I advise them on as a consultant.
Being one of the most recognized, experienced and powerful people in an industry where women are still underrepresented, do you see any advantages women have in this business?
Women have enormous advantages in this business. In an industry whose primary target are women, we have the advantage of empathy, insight and consumer understanding. In an industry whose lifeblood is creativity, women are exceptionally creatively talented. In a world where advertising urgently needs innovation and disruption, we challenge the status quo because we are never it. And yet the male-dominated industry is spectacularly failing to leverage any of those advantages; failing to hire and promote women into leadership roles; failing to welcome, champion, celebrate, value and reward the talent, skills and creativity of women. We have many advantages and few opportunities. That’s the problem.
What would be your message to Golden Drum delegates?
You will be able to walk away from my talk and immediately begin changing the world through advertising. I can't wait to see you do it.