Beach Bums Basically Run This Thing

I’m glad Alex Bogusky is opening up in various social media channels of late. It’s only natural for students of the business and fellow practitioners to wonder what makes a guy like Bogusky tick. Is he conditioned to win like a champion athlete? Or does he simply have a special gift for this business?
I think the more Bogusky can tell us directly, the clearer the picture will be. Journalists and film makers (and co-workers) always put their own lens on a guy, which is fine, but its another storyteller’s look.
Reflecting on an industry event he attended way back when, Bogusky gives us a personal look at one important aspect of his career development:

I don’t know how long the seminar was. It was probably about two days. If you told me it was a week I’d believe you because it was all happening in slow motion. As I’d walk the halls between session there was this one character that kept catching my eye. He was tall and lanky and was rocking flip flops and long hair. I grew up on the beach too but I was pretending to be a business man so I had a tie on like everybody else and a very attractive leather attache. This guy with the flip flops and the back pack flung over his shoulder didn’t seem to care to pretend about any of it but I had no idea who this freak was.

The freak was Lee Clow, of course, and Bogusky hung on his every word and ended up adopting Chiat/Day’s philosophy about not getting hung up on any one concept and always being ready to come back with even stronger work, no matter the bus your team might have been unkindly thrown under.

Well when they introduced Lee Clow you can probably imagine how surprised I was to see the freak walk up and take the podium. Now this was getting interesting. Maybe there was hope. This guy wasn’t faking it. He clearly didn’t have time for a lot of the bullshit or the false trappings of business. I have to imagine he had sat through most of the same presentations that I sat through because he seemed to be answering all the tough talk directly. He said he figured his agency had more dead ideas in the trash can than any of the other agencies ever made. That they didn’t make the clients buy the work at all. They didn’t jam anything down anybody’s throat. No, instead they just did the work and showed it to the client. If they didn’t like it they did some more and if they didn’t like that they did some more. Each time they would make it great. They wouldn’t compromise on that but they were confident they could make something new just as brilliant as the last. And they would just go on like that until one of two things happened. The client bought something wonderful or the client got absolutely sick of them and fired them. Wow. Suddenly there was a new path to success. Simple hard work. Now that was something I knew I could do.

Hard work. There it is. Bogusky’s secret is out. He’s not some kind of specially adapted species of ad man, he just keeps showing up and bringing it. Just like the bearded guy from L.A. who works best in salty air near near a favorite shore break.



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.