What it's like to work at Doyle Dane Bernbach (6)

Speaker: by Mrs.Lore Parker
Vice President & Copy-Supervisor, DDB(1966)

Now I must tell you what I think is one of Bill Bernbach's most significant ちchievement. The agency is now 17 years old --- has grown from 1/2 million to 180 million in billing,--- and yet the high-quality work has just kept flowing. This is because Bill Bernbach has known how to attract and develop talented people to carry on the work. And because he has let us develop in our own style.
He has not, like some other well-known creative men, tried to impress his own personal way of doing things on his people. He has no formulas and no rules.

He does not tell us that copy should be long or short, that a headline must have "you" in it, that the company's name must appear in the lower right-hand corner. All he ask---no, not asks but demands---is that we give him an ad that is fresh, interesting and compelling.

This creative freedom dose two things. First of all, it gives us enormous satisfaction and pride in our work.
Secondly, it results in constantly new and exciting advertising --- as each one of us makes his own, very individual contribution.

How does the agency hire such people?
Well, first of all, we do not hand the Job over to the Personnel Department. The supervisor shoulders, the burden themselves. All of us, including our Assistant Supervisors, share the job of screening and interviewing applicants.

If we interviewed everyone who wanted to work at DDB, we'd be doing nothing else all day. So first all applicants are to send us samples of their best work. If that looks promising, we ask them to leave their whole sample book for us to look through.

If that's interesting, they're practically hired. The interview is really secondary. It doesn't matter much to us whether our prospective employees are old or young, male or female, chic or shabby. All that matters is the work.

Interestingly enough, long and heavy experience at other agencies is not necesarily in the applicant's favor.

We often prefer some who has not been brainwashed by a mediocre agency.

You'll probably want to know whether we pay our people especially high salarlies. Well, not compared with a lot of other agencies around New York.
We're sort of average, I would say.
In fact, many people.
But after about two years with DDB their value in the job market has risen so much, that they can easily double their DDB salary at some other agency. Unfortunately, we lose some good people that way.
What kind of people are we --- we DDB creative people?
Well, whatever type you had in mind, you are probably mistaken.
We are not one type, but a mixture --- melting-pot --- a miniature America, or rather a miniature New York. I think we are a good cross-section of a democracy, with people of every conceivable religion. nationality, background and personality represented.

This is so because there is only one requirement for working at DDB --- you've got to be terrifically talented. And that is all.

So we get all sorts.
We have a very serious writer who was an electronic engineer before we hired him. And another one who was a bartender.

We have a Pop-Mod-Beatnik art director with long frizzy hair and purple velvet jacket. We have woman writer who's the sensible mother of 4 children, and another one who's a awinging chick with mile-long eyelashes and skirts way above her knees.

We have Jews and Italians and Irish and Anglo-Saxons. We have kids right out of school and mature men in their late 40's. The only thing we all share is ability --- and a healthy respect for each other's work.
The fact that each one of us is surrounded by excellent writers and art directors could possibly be very frustrating. But strangely enough, the tough competition acts only as a stimulus. As I walk down the corridors, I see samples of current work pinned up on the art directors walls.

Every month, at the screen new commercials for the agency staff, I see examples of what my colleagues are doing on TV. And instead of saying, "How am I ever going to keep up with this," , I find myself and exciting all the time ---no can I."

I mentioned the work pinned on the art directors' walls. We are, I'm afraid, very vain. There is no art director's office, and very few copywriters' offices at DDB that are not decorated with the occupants' own ads.
In tact, Bill Bernbaoh will sometimes give prospective clients a survey of the agency's work by taking them on a tour of art directors' offices.

Now that we do so much television than print, there is a real shortage of wall decorating material.

Many art directors, with considerable embarrassment, have to display ads they did months or even years ago. Any day now I expect to see our people install projectors in their office, which will give a constantly repeated screening of the occupant's own TV commercials, for the benefit of visitors.

You must forgive us this vanity.
We do not have the plush offices or the spectacular salaries of some of our colleagues at other agencies.

A great part of our compensation comes in the from of pride in our work.
Messrs. Doyle, Dane and Bernbach; realize this, and they encourage us to enter our work at festivals and shows, such as the Art Directors show, the Andy Awards, the American International TV Festivals,
the Gold Key Awards, and others.

This satisfaction in our work has an interesting side effect. You will have a difficult time finding, among DDB copywriters, a man with a half-written novel in his desk drawer.
Or an art director who rushes home to his easel to work on his latest oil painting. Most of us get full creative satisfaction between 9:30 and 5:30. Of course we have hobbies -- but they are only hobbies, not outlets for a frustrated creative instinct.

Now I have told you that we are a mixed bunch of crazy characters, fiercely competitive, very vain, and creatively satisfied. There is one thing I must add to round out the picture. We are sloppy.

Visitors are often astonished at our "shirt-sleeve look." Almost every other large agency has very impressive offices at a prestige address. DDB is in a very inelegant building on the unfashionable side of town. Our furniture is functional. Our decor is minimal. And for some strange reason -- perhaps a kind of reverse snobbishness -- there is a sort of pride in our "poorhouse" look.

This situation goes so far that any fixing-up of offices at the occupant's own expense is frowned upon. The only exception is when someone is elected a Vice-President. Then he receives a certain sum of money from the agency to upgrade his office according to his own taste. That is considered o.k. by the rest of us, because he is now entitled to a status symbol. But God help the man who spends his own money on what we feel is undeserved showiness. It is considered very bad form.