Creatives 2009: Andrew Keller

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Andrew Keller
Andrew Keller
It's hard to say exactly what makes a great advertising person today but here are some of the things I've noticed: They are optimistic. Or have what we call delusional positivity. They are extremely intelligent and curious, as well as selfless. They have to be dedicated to business success. That's what separates the good from the great. And they have to live a sizeable amount of their life online. Because it's the most populated universal modern environment, and it's where the newest languages and rules of communication are evolving and being created from scratch.

My secret to staying interested and relevant in advertising is twofold. I love to mess with culture and I love to help make companies successful. When these are your goals, the opportunities are endless. Any client. Any assignment. All come chock full with opportunity. And I think this attitude maintains my relevance. Because ultimately it's the ideas in unexpected places that drive big change, big success and buzz for our clients.

I would say launching MINI in the U.S. is the project that "made" me. We had learned with "Truth" that we could affect social change. And so we applied that to MINI with the thought that we could change culture to embrace a product rather than change a product to mirror culture.

Understanding leadership has been challenging for me and I still have so much to learn. I think probably the most important thing I've had to learn is that people want to be led. Even as I say that, it sounds terrible to me because I still don't fully grasp it. But we need leaders. We need someone to love, to hate, to follow. To make the decisions and accept the responsibility for being wrong. Early on you worry about being friends and not hurting feelings. But kindness that enables mediocrity is the worst kind of mean.

I have definitely failed many times in my career. I think the biggest thing I've learned is that failure is a natural part of the creative process and life. We have to encourage it in each other rather than fear it. Because fear of failure means the end of creativity.

These days I am still learning the black magic of creativity. Almost everything I know I learned from Kiss and the Catholic church. My continuing education comes from Alex, Rob Reilly, Jeff Benjamin and some really smart clients.

I think the biggest challenge of the current environment for agencies is to embrace the evolution of their brands that is required in these times. People keep suggesting to me that it's hard to do great work in times like these. But the reality is that it's only hard to sell the same thing you were doing yesterday for a brand today.

I think my greatest talent may be generating a process out of chaos. For years I watched Alex run the agency on what seemed to be sheer will and wisdom. I made it my mission to institutionalize the process that he seemed to be making up on the fly. Now we are able to recreate that chaos across multiple offices with close to 200 creatives. Because of this I think the ability to collaborate with as many CP+Bers as we do in service of these great brands is what makes me most proud.

I am not patient. I don't believe work gets better with time. I don't think we make better decisions with time. I like to take action. I'd rather do the wrong thing than do nothing. At least if you do the wrong thing you can start doing the right thing sooner. So I'd say I'm bad at being patient.

The only sane response in a recession is to go for it. This current period reminds me of the months following 9/11. Instead of slowing down and pulling back, we put our heads down and went for it. We were doing MINI around that time. And I believe our success had a lot to do with living in our bubble and just keeping it moving. It's a great moment to get ahead and gain share. It's always been our philosophy.

I really liked the Million phone idea. I know when something is good because it makes me really mad. And I hate even writing about that damn thing right now. Simple. Smart. And it turned conventional wisdom on its head. Plus it's a great example of what I hope clients expect from us.

One thing that a lot of people may not know about me is that I love to sing. I will sing anywhere, anytime. I love music and I don't find it embarrassing at all to sing. It brings me a lot of joy and usually makes people laugh.

My biggest inspiration is my wife. She raises our two sets of twin boys while I'm out of town for days and while I spend long hours at the office. No one including me knows how she does it.

More than anything else these days my kids make me laugh. One time my kids all took turns standing up in front of each other and telling stories. One of them told a story about wearing diapers and then the diapers caught on fire and so they stuffed them in the mailbox. It made no sense. And yet one of my other kids laughed so hard he literally pee'd in his pants. That made me laugh.
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