Bill Bernbach? Who’s he?

OK, my blog has now degenerated into a request show. Dutch creative @nicoakkerman recently prodded me to blog about this story. which is illustrative of something. he had a good point. it’s that geekiness and nerdiness can be a trap.

This was the setting for this story. I and my partner Justin Reardon were in Cannes talking to the media press. The Budweiser Wassup! campaign was hotly tipped to win the TV and Film grand prix at Cannes. The world advertising championships. And coincidentally our campaign had gone global thanks to the Internet. So our silly catchphrase was even being shouted by Cannes natives. Great timing!

our employer DDB had put on a big press conference on the beach in Cannes. and we talked all bloody day. we were extremely hungover. but we soldiered on. being the focus of attention is energizing. DDB stands for Doyle Dane Bernbach. Bill bernbach was the creative engine that started the agency back in the 1950s. a real big deal.

seated at our table was the CCO of ddb chicago bob scarpelli, the chairman of ddb worldwide Keith Reinhardt, and us basically.

Keith was a chicago ad guy who was instrumental in creating omnicom. Bob was the head of ddb chicago.

My partner Justin was then a young guy in his mid-late 20s who didn’t give a shit about advertising. He wanted to be a director. And now is one. If not two.

Keith was real evangelical about Bill Bernbach and his legacy to both DDB and the ad industry. A smart move. Every new DDB employee got little hard cover book called “Bill Bernbach Said”. It was filled with pithy and frankly brilliant quotes by Chairman Bill. This guy really got the big picture. As an ad geek i lapped it all up. Justin probably tossed his copy of the book right in the trash on day one.

So, cut back to us all on the beach. Worldwide Creative Chairman Keith Reinhardt invokes Bill Bernbach’s name to us. We all nod. Except Justin doesn’t. He says “Bill who?”. Keith Reinhardt nearly has a seizure. A DDB employee who doesn’t even know who Bill Bernbach is!!!!!!! I alone was in a unique position to see how badly this was going to go. So i stepped right in assuring keith, who knew my passion for ad history, and reminded him of my Catholic adoration of Bill and encyclopedic knowledge of all things DDB.

It was too late. Keith was pissed off. He was too political to display his anger in front of journalists. So while we stayed chatting with the editor of Portuguese Ad Week, out of the corner of my eye i could see keith prodding his index finger at Bob’s chest. And i knew why. Justin with his “who is bill bernbach?” comment.

but what keith found reprehensible about justin is what made me like him. one ad geek per team is plenty. his “ignorance” was more than compensated by my ad nerdiness. my problem was i knew too much. justin’s problem was he didn’t know or care. perfect!

3 responses to “Bill Bernbach? Who’s he?

  1. Finally this story is made to live on forever on the web.

    And i have to say, the longer i’m in advertising, the more i find myself trying to work with people who don’t know anything about the industry.

    Used to be i got new ideas by learning from more experienced ad guys. This still happens sometimes, but more often i find myself learning from people that have no advertising experience at all.

  2. i agree nico. the truth is there isn’t a lot to “know” about advertising. just like there isn’t a lot to “know” about art. common sense and a desire (and ability) to surprise is really all it takes.

  3. Cheech and Chong live on!

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