Harry Webber and Me

One Reason Industry Legend Is Relegated to 'Outsider' Status

By Published on .

Derek Walker
Derek Walker
I don't really know Harry Webber. I am not a friend of Harry Webber. I have never worked with Harry Webber. I have never met him in person.

I have only exchanged comments on various posts on the Big Tent with him, conversed with him by e-mail and talked with him on the phone a couple of times.

I have visited his websites and read his blogs. He and I have agreed and disagreed on several subjects concerning the advertising industry and the direction it is going in.

That's the extent of my dealings with Harry Webber.

Then why am I writing about him? Because Harry Webber, the creative, deserves to be written about.

There are creatives who have done less than him but are exalted more -- people who have built legendary careers while only having only one or two great runs over a number of years. Still most creatives know their names and the one or two campaigns that they have done.

And what does Harry have to his credit?

  • "A mind is a terrible thing to waste"
  • "I'm stuck on Band-aid"
  • "Chow, Chow, Chow"
  • "Quality is Job One"
  • "Thanks, I needed that"
Then why is Harry an outsider? Why isn't he running an agency's creative department or the agency itself?

I'm not sure.

However, with the state of advertising being what it is, there's no good reason for a strong creative to be banished to the bench. Harry hasn't been sent to the bench, he's put out of the park.

What could he have done that to warrant this treatment? He has a spine and an ego. He knows how good he is and is not afraid to let you know. In this industry that isn't a crime unless, like Harry Webber, you are black.

Sally Hogshead recently wrote a two-part piece in the CMO Strategy section of AdAge.com titled "The Talented Jerk vs. the Sweetheart Hack," and from the responses to her piece, it seems folks are willing to put up with bosses who are jerks as long as they are good.

Then why aren't we willing to let Harry into the game? I am not calling him a jerk. I believe he is a strong creative that has an opinion and isn't willing to kiss butts to advance his career. If he was white, we would call this confidence, but he isn't white. So, he is arrogant and hard to work with. How many of us have heard this?

Now, here is the really sad part.

I couldn't care less how the general-market folks treat him. We expect that. For the record, I believe they are cowards who are afraid to face us on a level playing field, and I will talk about that in another post.

It is the treatment he receives from his own people that pisses me off.

This is not a young-vs.-old rant. I'm talking to both young and old.

You mean to tell me that Harry could not help some minority shops take their creative to the next level? There's nothing young creatives can learn from a man with a pedigree like Harry's?

No, because Harry is less concerned with networking and towing the company line, we ignore him, turn our backs on him -- barely acknowledge him. Well, I'd like to let you know that (except for a couple of people out there): "You, sir and madam, are no Harry Webber."

This man created great work with the deck stacked against him. He cleared the ground for the few of us allowed to enter the game, and you have the gall to turn your nose up to him?!

Don't give me that crap about the world has changed. Harry and his generation have been living and working in this world while you were tucked away in your parents homes or away at school -- they know exactly how much this world has and hasn't changed, and what it takes to succeed in it.

That little bit of book knowledge you have amassed or that web experience you are leaning on are a poor substitute for learning to create strong ideas that resonates with human beings today and years later.

Please, take the time to understand your past and the brave souls who fought a fight others didn't have the stomach or the strength to fight. Listen to their words and stories, seek their advice and counsel, and understand that your success has been paid for by people who will never be allowed to enjoy the fruits of their labors.

Harry Webber deserves better.

Derek Walker is the janitor, secretary and mailroom person for his tiny agency, brown and browner advertising based in Columbia, S.C.
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