Posted by: David Kiley on July 23, 2009
By Rob Strasberg
Strasberg is vice chairman and chief creative officer of advertising agency Doner.
I lived in New York City just long enough to think I knew everything.
It’s been said you need to live there seven years to be considered a real New Yorker. Well, I was there 6 months longer than that so I thought I knew my shit (my New York coming out). While there I learned advertising from two DDB legends, Roy Grace and Diane Rothschild, and they knew their shit.
Or so I thought. In 1999 when I told them I was leaving Grace & Rothschild to work for a small shop in Miami called Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, they said, “You’re crazy. Great work doesn’t come out of Miami.” As I told my plans to other friends and colleagues in the ad biz I heard the same thing, “You’re crazy.” A couple years into my eight year run at CPB I realized that New Yorkers don’t know everything. And when it came to marketing, maybe everyone there was too into the idea of New York City to really understand what was going on in the rest of the country.
Working in Miami gave me a great perspective on the United States. After all, geographically it’s almost off the map and psychologically it’s quite separate. I was a mass marketer looking at American culture from a distance.
At Crispin we were tapping into the zeitgeist not so much because we were living it, but because we were studying it from abroad; observers watching the wheels go round and round.
I remember eating a Cuban sandwich under a palm tree listening to Calypso music while “concepting” marketing ideas, and thinking, “This doesn’t seem real.”
About a year and half ago I left CPB for a new challenge. And once again I’m hearing the same statement, “You’re crazy, great work doesn’t come from there.” Where am I? The Heartland. The population center of the United States, where the largest portion of consumers live, eat, drive and play with brands.
For the first time I’m actually living among those I sell to. I’ve been to dog shows. I’ve gone apple picking. I’ve dunked donuts at cider mills. I’ve helped underprivileged families fix up their homes. And my wife works for a charitable organization that delivers more than 12 million meals a year to the needy in Detroit.
And it’s true that Midwest neighbors do bring pie over when you move in. It’s all given me a new sense of consumer values, wants and needs - and what marketer doesn’t want/need that? The work we’ve been doing at Doner reflects it (Decide for yourself, Donerus.com). Maybe now I do know my shit, or at I’m least I’m starting to.