Rob Schwartz of TBWA\Chiat\Day NY is one of my favorite people in the ad business today. To qualify for this kind of praise, you have to be smart and kind. Rob is both, and like all of my favorite people, he doesn’t bullshit. He’s down to earth and he makes time for people—qualities not always found in the CEO of a New York City ad agency. Rob is also a long time reader of Adpulp.com and one of our most generous supporters. Therefore, I am both thrilled and honored to share this recent interview, in part. The full text of the interview will be available soon when Ad Brains: Honest Conversations with Advertising’s Icons, Rulers, and Rebels is published.
Q. Who and/or what do you admire in the ad biz today?
I think the best advertising today is coming from one place: The Lincoln Project. All of their work is relevant, surprising, emotional, and exceptionally powerful. And people are talking about it. Oh, and let’s not forget the volume. These guys do a Super Bowl ad each time the fodder emerges from Washington.
Q. How did you become interested in advertising as a career path?
I fell into advertising when I failed at everything else. I failed the LSAT. I failed at screenwriting. I failed at TV writing. I failed at playwriting, I failed at writing a novel. These “fails” lead me to a job in publishing at Simon & Schuster. A woman named Diane Lamonaco recognized whatever talent I had and recommended a class in Advertising Concepting at the School of Visual Arts taught by her friend Tony Romeo. Tony was a legendary art director at DDB. I fell in love with advertising that first night and haven’t looked back since.
Q. What do you do to connect with nature and clear your mind?
I walk my dog. She’s a wonderful Labrador Retriever named Pepper. She’s partial to Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. She leads me there and that’s where I commune and connect.
Q. How is working in NYC different than working in LA?
It’s like night and day. I love LA. Loved working there. But in LA, you needed every resource in the building. It is not a city where collaboration is natural. It’s too spread out. Too much traffic.
NYC is more intimate and combustible. You want to meet someone, you make it happen. In real life. In minutes, not months.
I’m old school that way. I like to talk to people face-to-face. In bars, In coffee shops. In restaurants.
Q. Is the ad business better today than when you entered it? Why or why not?
I think the world always has room for a great idea, so I would say that today is better. Because if you can break through all of the noise and clutter today, you probably have an idea that’s really good.
Q. What’s the best museum in NYC?
The streets. Art, stories, and music are alive on each and every one. You simply must open your eyes and ears.
Q. What qualities do the best clients have?
Trust, collaboration, focus. The best clients trust the process. They collaborate and make the work better. And they focus on making great work happen – especially within their organizations. People often forget that it’s the clients who must sell and push the work through their own companies when we at the agency are not in the room. That takes incredible focus. And guts. The best clients are brave, too.
There’s much more to this interview, and you can read it in full as soon as Ad Brains is edited, published, and made available for sale.