Read Chris Wall's Love Letter to His Mentor, Steve Hayden

Heartfelt Note Penned on Eve of Creative Legend's Retirement

By Published on .

We all have mentors in our careers, and for Ogilvy North American Vice Chairman Chris Wall -- and several others in this business -- that 's Steve Hayden, the legendary copywriter and all-around nice guy who wrote the "1984" TV spot for Apple and went on to create award-winning work for a range of other marketers.

The WPP agency announced yesterday that after 18 years of work on IBM, Motorola, American Express and other longtime accounts, Mr. Hayden has officially retired.

You can feel his impact when you peruse the Facebook group that recently cropped up in Mr. Hayden's honor. It's also exemplified in Mr. Wall's long, self-deprecating and sappy, but touching, note.

If you have something to share about Mr. Hayden, or anyone who was your mentor in the ad business, please include them in the comments section.

January 1, 2012

As I sit down to write this, it is New Year's Day in Chicago.

But more importantly, it is the day when I realized that this is also Steve Hayden is Gone From Ogilvy & Mather Day.

That, for me, is a milestone.

I knew it was coming -- but still, I find that it is hitting me hard.

Tuesday will be the first day that I'm working in this business that Steve Hayden isn't.

I find myself thinking of the coin-toss scene at the Texaco Station in No Country for Old Men." This coin has spent its whole life traveling to get here, and now it's here.

Call it.

The community of Friends of Steve is large, emotional, talented and diverse. So it seems to me that this occasion should be marked by writers using their best skills in service of this man and his profound accomplishments on behalf of our Fair and Noble Industry.

(OK, so it's neither fair nor noble, but what the hell.)

I'll start.

First, the serious and personal stuff.

Steve Hayden changed my life.

I can't say that about many people, and I'm sure you can't either. We don't get many Life Changers along the way -- and I feel lucky to have met him.

I think that he changed my life in two separate and very distinct ways.

#1: Steve wrote the commercial 1984 for Apple. It is the most famous single piece of marketing communications ever created in the history of our business, bar none.

For both young and not-so-young writers in this business, 1984 defined and continues to define the height of what creative people aspire to do. It also defined the specialness of choosing a life in this business -- using creativity to sell things and communicate things and move people -- and why we are so fortunate to be doing this for a living instead of digging graves or selling life insurance.

Now, David Ogilvy's well-known "At 60 mph, the loudest thing in a Rolls Royce is the electric clock" headline is a wonderful demonstration of intellect -- but it ran in the New Yorker and few people ever saw it.

But EVERYBODY saw 1984. It ran on the Super Bowl.

It is what made the Super Bowl into the Super Bowl, at least as far advertising agencies are concerned -- proving that what had been a middling curiosity of a football game into the most spectacular showcase of modern marketing. But more than that , 1984 was the first salvo in the launch of "the computer for the rest of us," a populist kick in the teeth of the elitist and monolithic computer companies of that era.

It was inspiring in a way that lasts a lifetime. A defining moment. An epiphany. 1984 is our industry's equivalent of Babe Ruth 's Called Shot or Robert Redford's blowing up the light towers at the end of "The Natural."

It is Truth as Myth. An enduring thing that grows over time. The single greatest achievement ever in our business.

Steve Hayden wrote it. Brent Thomas art-directed it. Lee Clow creative-directed it. Ridley Scott shot it. Steve Jobs and John Sculley ponied up the dough to pay for it. And Lee Clow and Jay Chiat created an agency in which somebody could come up with a wild idea like that and it actually got produced.

You probably remember 1984 even if you were born after it ran.

Dollar for dollar, it is arguably the single most effective piece of creative work EVER created. Steve Hayden did that for you, for me, for everyone who ever entered this business with the romantic notion that creativity counts, imagination matters and that advertising does not have to be a blot on the Accomplishments of All Mankind.

(Steve Jobs thanked Hayden and Clow, by name, from the stage at the internal launch of the Macintosh -- it is there on film for you to see on YouTube.)

We should all line up to kiss Steve's ass for doing this remarkable piece of work.

For giving us a bullet point to every rational client, good or bad, brilliant or idiotic, that allows us to point with passion and pride to even the most far-fetched idea and say: "Give this idea a chance."

So, that 's the FIRST way that Steve Hayden changed my life.

Here is the second:#2: In 1987, Steve hired me to be a writer on Apple at BBDO.

At the time, I was a nobody.

I was a wad of gum on the mailroom floor and Steve was THE MAN WHO WROTE 1984.

Not that I purport to be a somebody now, but at the time, I was a plebe, a rube, a dork.

I sure as heck wouldn't have hired me.

But Steve saw promise in the meager body of work I had done and he gave me a chance.

Steve listened respectfully and patiently as I explained why a sell-in brochure for a mini-blind display rack entitled me to work on Apple Computer, the coolest and most important company in history of civilization.

And, I think, that says something about Steve that those of us who know him love him for even more than the fact that he wrote THE MOST FAMOUS PIECE OF ADVERTISING EVER.

He is the kind of person who gives people a chance, who sees the possibility in you when everybody else looks at you as "who?"

He is the kind of guy who listens to clients who seem dimwitted and lost and somehow out of it comes something compelling.

He would never say any of the things about himself that I've just written. It's not in his nature. That's why Steve is Steve. My God I am so grateful for the shot he gave me.

You have to understand that Steve in those days had arrived at BBDO from Chiat/Day when that agency at the very height of their creative prowess.

Their work had style, wit, taste, ambition - all the things you want to do when you make the choice to become an advertising creative person.

Hayden wound up at BBDO like this:

Steve Jobs left for Next. John Sculley, his successor, fired Chiat and hired BBDO.

BBDO did a bunch of very nicely produced big production bits for Apple -- but they couldn't drive it down into the details. And print -- carefully written, intelligent, Ogilvyesque print ... was part of the success of Apple as much as the spectacle of 1984.

So Sculley went to Phil Dusenbery and said, "you have to hire Steve Hayden."

Phil was no dummy. He hired Steve. (When Phil died a few years ago, in the last interview he did with [Ad Age ] he said that his greatest regret was "losing Steve Hayden.")

I came into BBDO enormously intimidated by Steve, seeing as he was the man who wrote you know what. But also, because Apple was big, complicated and an emotional roller coaster.

It seemed that every other week somebody important at Apple was about to fire us. We were sitting in the post mortem of some client meeting that had gone dreadfully. And Steve suddenly chirped out in a crisp falsetto: "We're not quite dead yet."

I was just another young moron in the room BUT I knew what he was talking about.

I knew that he was mimicking a line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

And I knew that if Steve Hayden, TMWW 1984, the man who had swept every award show known to man when it counted most -- well, if he in this moment of dire peril could quote from Monty Python -- well, then the problem could be solved, couldn't it?

And we did. In fact, we hung onto the Apple business for more than a decade, through one crisis after another. We won dozens of Lions and Belding's and Effie's and other recognition along the way. And we did it without Steve ever saying, "Oh, we must win more Lions this year!" Not once. (For Steve, awards were a by -product, not a raison d'etre.)

As the New Kid, I got assignments to do all sorts of obscure and nonglamorous stuff. But Steve would sit and look at my work with respect and consideration and listen to what I had to say. Often, it would end with, "Well, let's write it together."

And I would look over his shoulder as he banged out paragraph after paragraph of sharp prose about Why Apple For Ornithologists or whatever.

That's how I learned how to write, really.

And also, to really write. To see how it is done in real time. By witnessing a master at work. One day he came in and announced he'd taken a job as President of Brand Services on the IBM business at Ogilvy.

Ogilvy. The quintessential New York Agency.

It was a risky move to say the least.

For those of you too young -- or too old -- to remember, you have to understand how dire the situation was when IBM arrived at Ogilvy.

There is a priceless Fortune cover from 1994 -- around the time we got the business -- in which they write about the dinosaurs of American business, and IBM was dinosaur No. 1. Something that should be broken up and sold for scrap.

Interbrand, which does this survey of Brand Value, had IBM as something like 286th on their annual survey. Worse, the actual value they assigned the IBM brand was MINUS $50 million. That meant a product with the IBM logo was worth LESS than a product with no value at all.

The whole industry was ready to do a River Dance on IBM's grave. But Steve came in and -- gadzooks --things changed.

He will be the first to tell you about how Bill Hamilton made a major breakthrough with the subtitles campaign and give credit where credit is due. But the BIG TURNAROUND was brought about by Steve.

It remains perhaps the single greatest turnaround in the history of American Business. And from that turnaround came all kinds of growth and prosperity for Ogilvy.

Today, as Hayden leaves, according to the same Interbrand survey, IBM is the #2 most valuable brand in the world. That is not to say it is the advertising that did it-and yet, perception is reality.

If people think you get it, you get it.

Steve Hayden did that .

The single biggest turnaround in American Business History AND the single most famous piece of advertising ever created. Not too shabby as careers go.

And he did it without becoming a raging asshole or an egomaniacal lunatic or worrying about whether his photograph was on the cover of Creativity every other week.

He helped Ogilvy grow and prosper for much of the 90s and helped hold the fort together through the upheaval of the 2000's. For that , all of us who attach the Ogilvy name to our personal brand should be eternally grateful.

But Steve is a modest person, so somebody else has to put this all down because he would never do it himself.

If it's not evident by now, I love Steve.

We all love Steve. He's just a nice person. A kind person. He's an empathetic and charitable person. He can laugh when things are at their darkest. He can laugh at himself.

Personally, I think we all owe him. Each of us who ever cared about the quality and literacy of our work, and wanted our mothers to see what we'd done and be proud of us for doing it.

Me, Ogilvy, BBDO, Chiat, the whole industry.

We love you, Steve. We owe you.

But, as I write this, I still hear the chipper falsetto of Monty Python when Steve was "The Man Who Wrote 1984" and I was a nobody with illusions of doing something of consequence and meaning some day. "I'm not quite dead yet."

And in that knowledge is some comfort.

For all of us who benefited from your talent, your passion, your patience, your ideas, your nerf-management, your kindness and your forgiveness.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Love always,

Chris

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