A Great Portfolio Is Awesome, But A Great Personality Is Better

Big Spaceship won’t employ you if you’re an asshole or a rock star. At least that’s what Michael Lebowitz told the The New York Times.

I remember a guy, he really was an incredibly talented designer, one of the best I’ve ever seen, but he was just surly. No matter how good you are, design is always an exercise in balancing what you think is best with someone else’s needs, even arbitrary things. He couldn’t roll with that stuff. He had conviction born of great talent, but he was in the wrong business to have that kind of attitude.
I’m looking for people I like, because I’ve seen how, no matter how talented they are, the negative is always going to pull down any positive. The second- or third- or fourth-best candidate who isn’t a jerk is going to ultimately provide way more value. Because we learned that early on, we’ve always guarded against that sort of rock-star culture.

I like what Lebowitz is saying. But I think we all know that the rock star mentality is alive an well in Adlandia. The mystery to me is why that’s the case. Why do people who make ads for a living feel that they’re more knowledgeable, more stylish and more entitled than the proverbial man on the street? I used to think the answer had to do with our close proximity to Hollywood and the entertainment industry, but since only a few of us actually rub elbows with real stars, that answer seems incomplete.
What’s your take? Do you currently work with assholes and/or rock stars? If so, how do you manage them? If you do not manage them, when do you plan to get rid of them?



About David Burn

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. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.