Of So-Called Rock Stars and Stage-Hogging Poseurs

I just *love* how Ad Age declared the Death of the Rock Star CMO. Well, who do you think anoints them as rock stars in the first place? I decided to explore this asinine trend:

Now, there’s nothing wrong with saying someone has extraordinary skill or talent. Heck, even an extra helping of charm and good looks can help you succeed in the ad biz. But to elevate someone to “rock star” status is sheer lunacy. In a business where we seek “universal truths,” the embrace of such poseurs is universal bullshit.
What’s even worse, it sets up unrealistic expectations for the person considered to be the rock star. Let’s face it, it only takes a little time spent working for a bureaucratic corporation, dysfunctional agency, or hack Executive Creative Director to kill off that reputation. And in corporate America, where nearly everyone has a leash-like electronic entry badge and a lengthy employee ID number, some things are simply beyond the power of one person to change–no matter how much that person thinks of him or herself as a “change agent.”

Read more in my new column on TalentZoo.com. And as I’m approaching nearly 5 years as a columnist on TalentZoo, I’ve created an easy-to-scroll website at AdColumnist.com where you can read them all. I hope you enjoy it– there’s over 85 columns there that I’ve written since 2002, it makes a good time waster at the office.

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for TalentZoo.com. Dan published the best of his TalentZoo.com columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. Excelent post, Danny. I’ll probably be quoting you in a post tomorrow.

  2. Well, it’s a matter of semantics perhaps.
    This argument of “there are no rock stars in the advertising business” has come up a few times in recent months. My personal perspective is there have been and are a few legitimate rock stars in the business. Bill Bernbach and David Ogilvy earn the label. Living rock stars include Clow, Goodby, Silverstein and Weiden + Kennedy. Sure, folks will vehemently argue that no one deserves the title. But there’s an element of self-loathing in such a position. If the deep-down belief is that the trade is devoid of stars, well, there’s something wrong here, folks.
    Additionally, as anyone who’s actually dealt with rock stars in commercial shoots will attest, the typical rock star is no rock star — particularly in the emotional and intellectual arenas. Let’s not give these guys too much credit.
    The Ad Age article actually taps into a bigger industry issue: the power and spotlight have shifted from the adpeople to the clients. Back in the day, the clients simply approved (and hopefully loved and supported) the work. It’s sad to think things have gotten to the point where clients are taking credit for it. There may be a few semi-legitimate rock stars on the client side. Richard Braniff, Steve Jobs and Phil Knight come to mind. But the CMO of some Detroit auto account or laundry detergent brand? Please.

  3. daveednyc says:

    Nice column once again, Mr. G. Loved the Rob Pilatus quote — ah, what wonders a cocaine addiction can do to one’s ego. Maybe that explains things in our neck of the woods too…
    But isn’t it also about how our industry is somewhat youth-obsessed? You could even say regressive and immature — at least those are the characteristics I see in the 44 year-old creative who arrives to work on a skateboard, hair are mussy-gelled, sporting a faux-70s tee from Urban Outfitters.
    I got sick of the term years ago when I was starting out; I would hear it over and over again from recruiters, CDs, CD-wannabe AEs and the whole gamut: we’re looking for the next ROCK STAR; you need a book that proves your ROCK STAR potential; we will treat you like — and you expect to perform like — a (you guessed it) ROCK STAR!
    I soon realized not only was I not a rock star, and would never be one, I was actually OK with it. And that I wanted nothing to do with industry types who thought otherwise.
    Hell, if I really wanted to be a rock star, I would have kept working on my guitar and singing chops and gone on one of those reality tv shows. You know the ones where the hipper, younger dudes save a group of over-the-hill rock stars from early retirement.

  4. Thanks for the kind words, guys.

  5. I just want to thank you for being the first person in about five years to spell “poseurs” correctly.