Merkin on Rothschild
What was it like learning from Diane?
These days, there are plenty of schools that can teach you the craft of advertising. For me, ad school was Diane Rothschild. Working at Grace and Rothschild was like being at one of those old art schools, where students spent years imitating the works of the masters before developing a style of their own. And Diane is a master of her craft. She has an approach to ad writing that will never go out of style. It's always smart. Always clever. And always relevant.
What were some of the important things she taught you?
She taught me that you have to know the rules before you can break them. And in an industry so focused on branded entertainment, Diane's work serves as a reminder to us all that a single great piece of advertising can be entertainment enough.
What was she like as a mentor?
I would say she had the greatest influence on my career by far. She taught me to write, and completely gave shape to my talents. She would vastly improve any piece of work with the most minor involvement. In fact, her pen never touched my paper. She communicated with sensitivity
Rothschild on Merkin
What was your first impression of Ari?
My first impression of him was that he defies an awful lot of predictability. There were contradictions in him, but the real issue-and it was really what we looked at only-was the work. His book was terrific.
In the years you spent with him, what did you observe about his progression?
With any young very creative person, a lot of the early work is just taking out the extraneous stuff. They've usually got terrific ideas, but they haven't yet learned to isolate them. That was part of it with him, and he also got more and more discerning. I'd love to make this a totally unique growth, but he followed a pattern that other great writers have followed. And you can never make someone a brilliant writer, you can only create an environment that encourages it and then take away the stuff that isn't brilliant.
What are your thoughts on mentoring in general?
Mentoring implies that someone is young. And young creative people are very fragile-even though half of them are obnoxious-they're still fragile. I believe you really really have to bend over backwards to make them feel that they're really good.