Going on an Offensive to Push Big Thinking

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Carisa Bianchi, president-CEO of TBWA/Chiat/Day's San Francisco office, has presided as chief agency suit over advertising icons such as the sock puppet. But her most important achievement, according to her creative colleagues, is her ability to set up the emotional grounding for outstanding creative.

"It's absolutely easy to do vanilla," or ordinary, creative, Ms. Bianchi says. "You have to have the ability to present big creative ideas that fall outside of what's safe." Then, she says, "you have to fight, fight and fight."

Good team builder
Ms. Bianchi's creative partner, Chuck McBride, creative director of Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day North America and creative head of the San Francisco office, says she's one of the rare outstanding account executives in the business, effective at building support both within the agency and outside for great work.

Mr. McBride recalls that when Ms. Bianchi presented the campaign for Sony's PlayStation, now contributing 35% of profits for Sony Corp., she began by telling the clients in the room, "We are here to invent culture. What we're really trying to do is something to capture the imagination of everybody."

In presentations, "She has a strong emotional component, and she lets a little of her emotion show" by leaning forward and using hand gestures and voice inflection to get her feelings across, Mr. McBride says. She lets the client know "we did this because we are committed. It never comes across in that cold, 'Here's the brief, the assignment, the work.'"

That emotion carries across in many ways, he notes. "Very few account people stand in defiance of the client and advocate great work," says Mr. McBride. "She can take a choppy piece of water and turn it into a calm pool and with that, creative people can easily go across."

Results for the $150 million shop's other anchor client, Levi Strauss & Co., haven't been as dramatic as for Sony, with the beleaguered jeans marketer still struggling to hit its stride. However, Ms. Bianchi believes the brand's decline has been arrested. "Things are in place, and we're on the right path to recovery," she says.

Back to start
Ms. Bianchi, 42, started her career in Southern California in the 1980s, joining Chiat/Day, Los Angeles, in 1989, working with TBWA/Chiat/Day Worldwide Chairman Lee Clow. She left briefly in 1997 to start a now closed Los Angeles office of Leap Partnership. In 1998, she rejoined TBWA/Chiat/Day as head of the San Francisco office.

The office has won the internal company prize -- the Lee Clow Award, in the shape of a surfboard -- for best creative product in North America for 2000, and Ms. Bianchi asserts, "I want to help Lee write new chapters in the TBWA/Chiat/Day Worldwide book."

She'll get her chance as the shop copes with the flagging San Francisco agency business. "In a recession, some manage by fear, which can be smelled a mile away and stunts your vision," Ms. Bianchi says. "Others manage by staying true to their values and by ensuring, by thinking big and thinking offensive."

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