BBDO: It’s Everywhere You Want To Be

Fast Company Senior Writer, Linda Tishler, sat down with BBDO’s David Lubars and Phil Dusenberry. Here are some of the more poignant revelations.

Dusenberry says the ability to stop bad work is the only power a creative director really has, and boasts that his office was called the “quake zone” because of the fear he struck in even senior people. “The more they quake, the less they’ll waste your time with work that’s less than their best,” he writes in his memoir, Then We Set His Hair on Fire.
“Our boss,” Lubars says, “is the work. And it’s a very mean and cruel boss who will humiliate you in public if you don’t satisfy it. You must please that work and make it feel like you’ve given it your all.
Lubars: Creative helps drive where the media is going to go. It can’t be done in an assembly line like a Ford plant from 1908. Sometimes you have a great strategy on paper, but it doesn’t execute. So the creative and the strategy work together like in a DNA molecule. Media has to work like that, too. Media is now a creative job. It’s not just, “How many exposures can I get for this amount of money?” It’s also, “What delightful interesting places can I put my client in that are relevant but fit the creative?” It has to be woven together.
Dusenberry: My greatest fear about this industry is that the people who are in it now, and in the future, won’t have as much fun as we had. We had a great time. It was just wonderful to create work, it was wonderful shooting it and producing it. Today the business is more of a dollars-and-cents game.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Reading Dusenberry’s book now. So far, so good.

  2. I guess I don’t understand how striking fear in your employees, purposefully making your people “quake” when they had to present stuff, is supposedly “fun.” Phil should call his book “Sadism on Madison Avenue.”
    These are two dudes who may have vast experience and huge reputations in NY & Cannes, but they seem more like one-dimensional caricatures of ad men. To me, they represent everything that’s wrong with the industry.

  3. Carl La Fong says:

    Amen, Kevin. I was going to say the same thing, but you beat me to the punch.
    Funny: If Il Duse and his smikring successor are so wildly talented, shouldn’t they have figured out a way to get the best out of their people without using fear and intimidation?

  4. Kevin and Carl,
    I see this differently. It’s like “How would you feel working at Fallon or Goodby?” I, for one, would feel fear. Fear that my ideas wouldn’t be consistently good enough. Therefore, I’d want to give my all, all the time, to make sure I was in fact good enough to keep that kind of company. So, I see it as healthy, this type of fear or uneasiness.
    And if we had more CDs who called bullshit, we’d have better work all around.

  5. “Dusenberry: My greatest fear about this industry is that the people who are in it now, and in the future, won’t have as much fun with their slushpile as we had with our slushpile…”

  6. I’m sure there must be some blazing wisdom in your sluhpile meme, but presently it’s hiding behind the term “slushpile.”

  7. The “slushpile” metaphor isn’t for everybody.
    Some people prefer “soaring like eagles” or “thinking outside the box” or “breaking throught the clutter”.

  8. Will the ambiguities ever end?

  9. Carl La Fong says:

    David, I hear what you are saying. But I think a good creative director should make you feel inspired, not intimidated. Challenged, not cowed. Motivated, not mortified.
    Unless Admiral von Dusenberry’s quote was taken out of context, it sounds like he enjoyed instilling fear in his underlings. (A creative director on a power trip? Whoa, what are the odds, huh?)

  10. Want to make advertising a career you’ll love for forty or fifty years? Do your best, always. But never let the award shows cloud your mind as to what a good ad is. Find good, honest, hardworking people to associate with, and avoid *ssholes who have no lives outside of the business.
    Want to work in the business for 10 or 15 years and burn out at 35? Work for guys like these, and take their crap seriously.
    Just the humble opinion of a guy who looks for the fun, not the fame.

  11. The award shows are an irrelevance.

  12. Carl La Fong says:

    Once again, well said, Kevin.

  13. What!? Award shows are irrelevant!? Stop the presses! Thank you for that earth-shattering insight, O Master of the Obvious!

  14. hugh macleod says:

    Thank you, Clyde, for your rather third-rate sarcasm.
    So… what is it that you do that is particularly interesting? Feel free to show the room.
    Oh, that’s right, you can’t. Because your CD will fire you. Oops.

  15. Zounds, Hugh, thou hast cut me to the quick with thy rapier-like wit! Shades of the Algonquin Round Table!
    If my sarcasm was third-rate, it’s only because I lowered myself to your level. Do you think we sit around breathlessly waiting for you to pass judgement? Are we to believe that award shows are irrelevant merely because you say so? I think most of us who read this forum already figured that out long ago (hence the sarcasm, Einstein). In fact, Kevin pretty much said as much in his previous post.
    By the way, I hate to break it to you, O Great One, but I am a freelancer – by choice, in case you were wondering. So while your concern for my welfare is indeed touching, you don’t have to worry about me being fired by anyone.
    And anyway, why do I have to “prove” myself worthy to you merely to offer an opinion? Your approbation means nothing to me.
    Your boundless self-importance and insufferable arrogance are why I stopped reading your blog months ago. The real Gaping Void is the one between your ego and your actual accomplishments.

  16. Damn…Part of me feels like I ought to jump in before someone gets hurt. Then again, this is truly what happens in the ad world. Which, of course, is one of the factors that leads so many to dogged bitterness.

  17. Sorry, David. I didn’t mean to turn this discussion into a flamewar. Pompous, self-important twits like Hugh are the reason I went freelance in the first place. But that’s no excuse for me to stoop to his level. I’m a big fan of your site and I don’t want to be the one to poison the well through a petty feud. So I will refrain from any and all personal attacks.

  18. I’m not put out by it. A certain someone in rural England might be, but I’m not.

  19. Mommy! Mommy! Clyde won’t read my blog any more!

  20. btw Clive, not that it matters (Other people? Matter? As if.) the phrase “but I am a freelancer” tells us nothing about what you do, only what you call yourself on your business card.
    Maybe you should start a blog so we can all find out what this “freelance” thing of yours actually entails. Y’know, business, ideas, and all that clever, neat-o stuff that “pompous, self-important twits” like me can only aspire to one day create.

  21. This sounds like Hugh wants you, Clyde, to prove yourself, and you’ve already covered off on that point above. One thing though, it does seem slightly unfair to attack someone from the safety and comfort anonymity affords.

  22. hugh macleod says:

    Covered himself? According to who?
    I want to see all these fabulous ideas his freelance “career” allows him to come up with.

  23. I haven’t responded to Hugh’s increasingly shrill attacks, David, because I said I was no longer going to play a part in prolonging this juvenile squabble and I am, if nothing else, a man of my word. I don’t want to see this forum degenerate into the online version of Bosnia. Besides, I said what I had to say in the matter — and Hugh’s subsequent remarks only serve to prove my point. I’ve moved on, even though he is apparently unable to.
    But there is one comment you made, David, that I feel compelled to address. I fail to see how my “anonymity” is relevant to the discussion – if you can call it that – at hand. My identity is entirely irrelevant and does not negate my opinions. I never claimed to be some kind of creative genius who is reinventing advertising. Believe me, I’m not. I rather doubt, however, that Hugh would question my credentials if I agreed with him.
    And why should he? It’s meaningless. I agree with you sometimes, David, and sometimes I don’t. But do I need to see your portfolio in order to decide whether your comments are valid? Of course not. Even if I did have a blog or samples of work on display, then Hugh would find some other reason to attack me.
    The bottom line is, I simply thought Hugh was being arrogant and I called him on it. By openly expressing my opinion in a public forum, I left myself wide open to comments both pro and con.
    Anyway, again, I apologize for my part in this foolishness. If it makes Hugh feel better to vent his spleen, then by all means do so. I’ve got better things to do with my time.
    Peace out. Much love, much love.

  24. hugh macleod says:

    [SFX: Violins.]