Creativity 50 2015

Creativity 50 2015: Donny Deutsch

Ad Man Turned Entertainer

By Published on .

Donny Deutsch
Donny Deutsch Credit: Ali Goldstein/USA Network
Most Popular

Donny Deutsch wasn't afraid to break the rules during his 25-year tenure as CEO of the ad agency bearing his surname. And this year, he brought that same bravado to television in his new USA Network comedy, "Donny!" While Mr. Deutsch isn't exactly reinventing the TV ad model, he is proving that advertising can be just as creative and exciting as the content that viewers tune in to watch.

In the series, Mr. Deutsch breaks the fourth wall to sell everything from vacuum cleaners to vodka. He plays up the often canned and blatant nature of paid placements and in many cases these integrations have turned out to be some of the funniest parts of the show. At a time when binge watching and ad skipping have made it difficult for marketers to get their messaging seen, Mr. Deutsch is proving one of the oldest forms of TV advertising can still work.

Ad Age: What's your definition of creativity?

Donny Deutsch: Real creativity is when there are no nets. True creativity comes when you push yourself out of your comfort zone.

Ad Age: What was your biggest creative challenge of the past year, and how did you tackle it?

Mr. Deutsch: The challenge in creating "Donny!" was starting with a blank piece of paper in an ecosystem I haven't played in before.

Ad Age: What advice would you give others when it comes to nurturing your creativity?

Mr. Deutsch: You can't be afraid to fail. You need to embrace failure in order to do something great. All creativity -- great movies, books, art, theater -- is somewhat a reflection of society. Creativity has to come from within. It needs to be organic. You can't follow what's on trend or what you think will sell well. We all want commercial success, but you need to write for yourself, draw for yourself, do art for yourself.