Reawakening The Pirates

You rarely hear publicly from people who’ve recently left high-profile ad gigs. At least, they don’t talk about their most recent position or agency.
But Al Kelly, who recently left TBWA\Chiat\Day, wrote about the agency’s famous “pirate” spirit, using an old “we lost a pitch” ad the agency ran in the 70’s.

The place is legendary for good reason: the visionary leadership of a single unflinching, uncompromising personality drives it.
But maybe that’s not enough anymore. Today, agencies that succeed value constructive dissent, it leads to flexibility and change. What we don’t want to hear is often what we need to hear the most.
Would you run a house ad today about losing a pitch? Would those who did back then do it now? When things suck, human nature is to keep our heads down and play it cool. But eventually most humans say, “To hell with it, let’s speak our mind.”

It’s an interesting read. Most people never get the opportunity to so openly address the positives and negatives of their recent jobs without fear of reprisal. At least not in Adweek.

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 Dan published the best of his 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. How odd… I just wrote about the Honda account, more or less where Kelly’s story ends and my father’s begins:

  2. @Steffan – this isn’t about Honda, your blog or your dad. it’s about a sleeping pirate and one man’s attempt to awaken “him.”
    p.s. i wouldn’t give you a hard time, if i didn’t care.

  3. @Danny – love this. hats off to Al Kelly.
    we don’t want to say what’s really in our hearts and minds, because this is such a small business. but Al Kelly isn’t worried about bridges burned (not that he burned one here). he’s got the chops to say what he wants. at any rate, i struggle all the time with how much to reveal and how much to keep to myself (about topics of interest that we cover here and also about my own situation). for instance, one thing i bump up against pretty frequently is the idea that i don’t need work because i have this, i have AdPulp. i don’t like saying AdPulp is a side project because i don’t want it to be. but it is. i also don’t want to say i need work, but i do. one wants to project an image of strength, and saying “i need work” is a needle in that balloon. yet, the real writer in me (not the ad man) knows better. the real writer knows that to connect i need to open up, take risks, expose my vulnerabilities and so on. all the while the ad man in me fights that because the ad man wants to control the message. but control is a fallacy, isn’t it?

  4. Picky, picky…
    The time line of Chiat losing Honda to Needham coincides with my dad’s arrival to Needham, LA, which ultimately became RPA. While Kelly’s pitch advert is an awesome artifact it is also part of another story, too. I find it a tremendous coincidence that I elected to write about this, and then discovered that…Proof that there are, indeed, Gods of Advertising. 😉