Reinhard on Culture Clashes, Big Brands and Creative Conservatism

The Newly Minted Hall of Famer Also Weighs in on the Obsession With Quick Results

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"The most insecure species of our race are the creative people."

So said Keith Reinhard, newly minted member of the Advertising Hall of Fame, who penned "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there" and "You deserve a break today" for McDonald's. DDB Chairman Emeritus Keith Reinhard is one of the 100 most important figures in 20th century advertising.
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That's why, Keith told me in a video interview now on AdAge.com, the creative community has been slow -- "in some cases the slowest" -- to embrace new media. "Creative people, in this respect, are the most conservative people in the advertising business. And why are they? Because they're the most insecure, and they know very well how to go out and make a television commercial, but they don't know how to do the other thing, so it's a threat."

That will change only when the industry is populated by "digital natives as opposed to digital immigrants like myself," Keith said.

The creative process today takes a "whole new mind-set." The consumer has become part of the creative process. "That's a big change from the one-way, me-to-you communication, and then you respond to now: Let's engage together in a communication."

Keith contended that one of the big obstacles to effective marketing is "the obsession with quick results." But when a CEO is truly involved with the brand, "the brand endures. The brand has integrity, and it can sustain the revolving door, if there is one, of marketing directors."

According to Keith, the problem is people don't universally understand "that a brand is who you are, what you do, why you do it and how you do it. So it's style as well as content and message."

It's Keith's view that "we need more CEOs involved with and understanding the power of brands and what they stand for. ...The CEO has to be the ultimate brand manager."

Keith Reinhard and Allen Rosenshine were the architects of the most famous agency merger of all time, bringing together Allen's BBDO with Keith's Needham Harper and Bill Bernbach's DDB to form Omnicom. Both Needham and BBDO had been talking with DDB (Keith had even had discussions about joining DDB).

Keith's dream was to "bring Bernbach to life and his ideas to the world." But when it happened, the two offices fought civil wars over clashing cultures.

The only way to make it work was "to destroy both cultures and say, 'There are foundations here that we're going to build on, and there are foundations brought by both cultures, and we can find support in the words of Bill Bernbach,'" Keith said. "And we said the founding values of what is now DDB Worldwide are creativity and humanity."

He said the "toughest single sale" he ever had to make was to convince the Needham Harper headquarters in "Fortress Chicago." Their attitude was that "the marketing battles of the future can well be fought from the trenches along Michigan Ave., and we don't need any New Yorkers intruding on our business."

When Bruce Crawford came in to run Omnicom, allowing Allen to go back to BBDO, Bruce told Keith that it was a good thing he wasn't aboard in 1986 (the year of the "Big Bang") because he never would have approved the DDB acquisition.

Keith was the oldest beginning copywriter at Needham, Louis & Brorby (predecessor to Needham Harper). He started out at Kling Studios as a "revamper" -- the guy who puts all the elements together in the ad layout. Then he went to Magnavox and built an integrated-communications department for the industrial- and military-products division. His next stop was Biddle Co., an agency in Bloomington, Ill., as a creative account executive on State Farm. State Farm's national agency was Needham, Louis & Brorby, and Keith finally got an interview there. It took him 10 years to land his first copywriting job.
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