What it's like to work at Doyle Dane Bernbach

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

Thank you all for honoring me with your presence.

I am sure many of you heard a Bill Bernbach, when he was here a few months ago, tell you about the philosophy of his agency.
He told you what DDB looks like from the top. I thought perhaps you might be interested to know what DDB looks like from inside.
You heard from the captain on the ship's bridge. Today you will hear from one of the stokers in the boiler-room.

If this sounds as if we work very hard at DDB --- that's absolutely right. It comes as so surprise to many people who think that the creative life at DDB is one round of fun-and-games.
We often get applicants for copy or art directors' jobs who tell us, "All my life I've dreamed of working at your agency. Here I could really let myself go and do all the crazy, far-out, funny, charming, entertaining things I really want to do."

And, they show us some sample ads they did especially for us that are crazy, far-out, funny, charming, entertaining --- and don't sell a thing.

The truth is that in the Creative Department at DDB we observe stricter disciplines and pour forth more blood, sweat and tears over each campaign than in any other agency I know.
Some agencies concentrate on searching out a strong selling argument. And they stop there.
Other agencies --- especially some of the young "hot" ones --- concentrate on attention-getting, entertaining execution.
And they stop there.

Bill Bernbach demands of us that we do both.
Say something meaningful --- and say it in a fresh, provocative way.

Now, how does a DDB campaign come about?
When I told Bill Bernbach that I had been invited to give this talk to you, I asked him if there was any aspect of the agency's work that he wanted me to avoid. I said I didn't want to give away any secrets. He laughed and said, "You know very well that our only secret is Ideas. Go ahead and talk about anything you like."
So I'll tell you exactly how we work.

First of all, how is the Creative Department set up?
Under Mr.Bernbach, who has the title of Creative Director, there is a Copy Chief and a Chief Art Director. Under the Copy Chief there are several Associate Copy Chiefs, then the Copy Supervisors, the Assistant Copy Supervisors, the Copywriters and the Junior Copywriters.
The set-up is similar in the Art Department.

The interesting thing is that all of us below the level of Bill Bernbach --- all of us including the Copy Chief and Chief Art Director --- carry a full load of account, a on which we write. and art direct personally.
Our supervisory work is a second responsibility.
So that, at DDB when people get promoted for doing good creative work, they don't get promoted out of that creative work, into some administrative job.
On the contrary, they are assigned more and more important accounts to handle personally.

When a new account comes in, or a new product is given us by an existing client, a team of copywriter and art director are assigned to it. Very often Bill Bernbach will make his own choice of creative team.
Sometimes creative people come to him and request to be given a particular account in which they are interested. But mostly assignments are handled by the Manager of the Copy Department and the Manager of the an Art Department.
These jobs are distinct from those of Chief Art Director and Copy Chief.
The Chief oversee the creative output. The two Managers oversee the practical aspects like assignments, raises, vacations, etc. However, they are both creative men themselves, and Vice-Presidents besides, and like the rest of us have their own accounts.


The work of Lore Parker

We picked 3,000 fragrant red rose petals to make one small bottle of Yardley Red Roses Cologne for you!

with Art Director: Bert Steihauser

The account assignments are quite democratic. An Art Supervisor V.P. may work with a plain copywriter. Or an Associate Copy Chief with a simple Art Director. All that matters is how suitable and available each member of the team is for the job.

Once an account has been assigned to a team, it is "theirs". Their responsibility and their satisfaction alone. Many agencies put a whole slew of creative people to work on a problem, each one competing with everyone else. This leads to the attitude: "The chances that my campaign will win very slight. So why should I put my heart and soul into it?"
We sometimes interview writers who have worked somewhere for a year and have never had anything published. There are, of course, terribly frustrated.

At DDB we know that each one of us is solely responsible for the accounts assigned to us. All of it --- print, television, outdoor.
There are no "print writers" or "television writers". If an account is too large to be handled by one team, it is usually broken up by a product. As, for instance, the VW Station wagon is handled by different team from the VW Sedan. So our dedication in which we work.

Now what happens? Go the copywriter and art director sit down together and "create"? Not yet. First they must get to know their product, their client, their market, their audience, the client's problems and aims. A campaign like Avis' "We are No.2, so we try harder" could never have been done unless the creative people had been thoroughly familiar vith Avis' market position and competitive situation with Herts.

So the creative team goes to visit the client, talks to the client's marketing men and product managers and sales managers, often visits the factory.
Back home they sit down with the DDB account group, with the agency's own marketing and research people, until they have thoroughly soaked up all there is to know about the product.

I personally force myself not to let any campaign ideas bubble up in my mind until I have thoroughly understood the situation.
Otherwise I am in danger of making the facts fit the campaign, rather than coming up with a campaign that fits the facts.
Sometimes it happens that a campaign idea will come directly, word-perfect out of the client's own mouth. When we first got the Utica Club Beer account, Bill Bernbach sat in on a briefing meeting.
The client described their old-fashioned, slow, careful, superior way of brewing beer. He said, "Sometimes I wonder whether it pays to make beer this way."

Bill Bernbach looked up and said,
"There's yours headline."

And the first ad for Utica Club, an ad that was to become an advertising classic, was a long-copy ad with a picture of Utica Club's president and headline, "Sometimes I wander whether it pays to make beer this way."

Now, having soaked up information like two sponges, the an art director and copywriter sit down together to create campaign. They usually do their thinking in the art director office, so that he can scribble on the big layout pad on his art table while they talk.
It is not, like at some agencies, the copywriter who writes the entire ad himself and sends his copy to the art director with a "copywriter's rough" of the illustration. It is not, like at other agencies, the art director who takes a beautiful photograph and scribbles under it "Headline goes here." At DDB we work together as equal partners.

Work really consists of nothing but conversation. All we do is talk about the product. We explore directions in which we might go. The copywriter may suggest a visual---the art director may suggest a headline.
We bring up ideas, unedited, as they occur to us,

The other partner may say, "I don't think that's suggests that's a good idea because---." He may even say, "It stinks." But sometimes he says, "Hey, that's interesting. It suggests something to me that might just---."
And they're off---building a campaign together.

It's very much like a pingpong game. We serve balls at each other and return them back and forth. The only difference is that we don't try to make the other player drop the ball. The joy is to have your idea returned you, sharper and better than when you first served it. If your idea-ball remains in play long enough, you may have a campaign. And them both players win.

It is an interesting fact that, after campaign is done, very often we cannot remember which one of us came up with the original idea. In any case, it doesn't matter. It is cardinal sin at DDB to say "My campaign." It is always, "Our campaign.”Credit is shared. Blame is shared. In all my years at DD8 I Have never heard Bernbacb ask, "Which one of you came up with this?"

I cannot explain to you exactly why this system work. Why. teams of 2 should be able to produce better advertising than lonely men working by themselves --- or than teams of 3 or 4 or 5.Perhaps it has a parallel in the old American proverb "Two's company. Three's crowd."
The origins of this system are, at least to me, lost in history.
I suppose this is the way Bill Bernbach worked with Bob Gage when they were still at Grey Adverting Co, together, and that is the method DDB employees followed when Bill opened his own agency.

We sometime have visitors sitting in on art-copy session, to watch us work. They sit and wait for the "magic moment" , when the great idea strikes. They are always vaguely disappointed. I think they expect us to sit there silently, in a trance, until suddenly a lamp lights over our head. and a bell rings.

What they actually witness is just two people in intelligent conversation. A campaign idea usually evolves gradually, unspectacularly.

If you're lucky, it may come in the first couple of hours. More often it takes days, weeks, even months.

Also, different. people have different styles. Art Director Bill Taubin delights is solving a crisis overnight. Art Director Helmut Krone will polish and perfect a campaign for 6 months.

When the campaign is born, it must be approved by the supervisor of the copywriter and the supervisor of the art director. If the people concerned are supervisor themselves, that step of course is eliminated.
Then the campaign gets shown to the account group, and finally to Bill Bernbach. And that is all. There is no Creative Review Board at DDB to see to it that every campaign pleases everybody ---and sells nobody!

How you may ask how much does the Account Man have to say? Can he turn down a campaign Yes, he can, if the campaign does not hit the marketing objective for the product. He can not turn it down because "it just doesn't hit him right." Some years ago Bill Bernbach and Doyle jointly wrote a classic memo, setting down the responsibilities of the Creative Group and of the Account Group. In effect, account people determine what should be said. But the creative people have full freedom on how to say it.

There are, of course, many occasions when account and creative people resrch a deadlock. Then there is only one thing to do --- go to Bill Bernbach for a decision. I will come back to this subject & little later.

Next question is, how such does the client have to say? Can he tell the agency that "the campaign just doesn't hit him right?" Actually, it does not happen as often as you might think, because, our clients --- by the very fact that they have selected us as their agency -- are usually in sympathy with our way of doing things.

But of course clients do turn down campaigns. Then we ask exactly what they do not like about it. If they convince us, we will go back and do another one. If they do not convince us, we will try to win them over to our point of view.

Never, never do We turn out 2, 3 or half a dozen campaigns for the client to choose from. We think that is just as bad as a doctor who offers his patient green pills, blue pills and purple pills and asks him to pick. The client of course must give us his symptom. But we are the professionals who make the diagnosis and prescribe the treatment. If the treatment does not agree with the patient, we will try something else. But we consider it shirking our responsibility to put the burden of choice on him.

Finally, you will ask, if it is a television campaign, how much does the producer have to say?
There is, I think, an unfortunate misconception about the producer's role at DDB. The word goes that only weak producers can be happy at DDS. Because the art directors and copywriters dictate exactly what they want. I think that is dead wrong. The producer is the third member of the creative team. He can make or break a commercial. He is assigned by Don Trevor, Head of TV Production, about the same time the art director and copywriter are assigned.

Usually before the campaign is shown to the account group, it is discussed with the producer. Sometimes the producer will point out problems, and the campaign wi11 be dropped. Sometimes he will make suggestions that make the campaign beven better than it was. In any case, the execution of the campaign is largely in his hands. He is the midwife that delivers the baby.
He sets the bide, chooses a production house, supervises the casting, the accessorizing, the set designing, sets up a production schedule, masterminds everything.

At the actual Shooting, you can see the 2-member teams of Doyle Dane Bernbach expand to 3-member teams. Producer, copywriter and art director work together as a triumvirate --- consulting with each other, suggesting, criticizing. The actual spokesman is the Producer, whom you will usually find right behind the camera an, with the other 2 members of the team whispering into his ear. Tne producer gives the actual orders and, more often than not, acts as Director. We rarely hire three outside directors, because we three know ourselves just what we want.
The copywriter and art director are of course always present at the shooting. We are responsible for our campaign right through to the final detail. Perhaps that is what some outside producer object to?

But the fact is that Doyle Dane Bernbach producers, working this way, win more medals and awards than those at any other agency.
It seems to me that having superior creative material to work with would be a plus for any producer.

Now I am sure you are most interested to know how Bill Bernbaoh enters into this creative process. Two things never cease to amaze me. One is that, with over 60 accounts in the United States alone, Bill is constantly up-to-date on everything that goes on with every ad and commercial written. The second thing is that his door is always open.
You will find this hard to believe, but the President of a 180 million dollar agency, employlng l,300 people, wits in an office with an ever-open door. If I have a question to ask, or a campaign to be approved, I just walk in. There 1s no barricade of secretaries.
Bill has half a secretary (he modestly shares her with Ned Doyle), and she sits in a different office and does not even see me.

The only thing that may delay me is a bunch of other creative people, waiting outside Bl1l's door with layouts and storyboards under their arms, waiting for his opinion. I have seen Bill avoid interviewers, reporters, phone calls from all kinde of important people -- in order to flnlsh diecusslng a phrase or a photograph with his creative poople.

This open-door policy has an amazing psyehologica1 effect on us all.
It glves us a senee of belonging --- of inspiration emanating from the 26th Floor. I noticed this when I spent 2 months on a special project at our Dasseldorf office in Germany. Here I was no longer one flight of atiars removed from Bi11 Bernbach, but 5,0OO ml1es.
It took a week by letter to get a reaction from Blil. The personal contact was lost. I felt orphaned, cast-out, and it wae much more difficult to do good work.
But that's not all. Often, when you are looking for Bill Bernbach, you will find him sitting in an art director's office, juet visiting with the creative team. In his rare spare moments, you may come acroee him wandering through the oreative floor, poking his head into offices and ask1ng how we are doing on this or that project.
He knows precisely who is working on what. He remembers every sentence in every ad on every account. The other day he startled me by telling me verbatim what various people had said in a meeting with a client about 6 months ago.
These client meeting are really something. Bill will walk in, not knowing anything about the subject of the meeting. He will listen attentively, ask a question or two, and five minutes later will be completely up-to-date. From then on he will take over he meeting, and matters which we were unable to settle for an hour will be settled in 10 minutes.

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.

While we are on the subject of what kind of people we are, you might be interested to know a little bit of my own history. I am one of those strange types I mentioned earlier. I am not American at all, and English is not my native language. I was born in Germany and brought up in England.
When I had finished my education in America, I got a secretarial job in an advertising agency for only one reason. They paid $5 a week more than the New York Times, which had also offered me a job. If it had been the other way around, I would probably be a reporter today, or the Editor of the Food or Fashion page.

At that time DDB was just beginning to be known, and I wrote a letter to Phyllis Robinson, who was then Copy Chief, telling her why I wanted to work there. That was all. I had very little else to show, and I was hired mostly on the basis of this letter.
Everything I know about copy writing I learned from Phyllis and Bill Bernbach. These were the days of the classic early Bernbach's ads and the beginning of Chemstrand. The agency had 45employees and Bill Bernbach said it was a perfect size, and he wouldn't mind if it never grew any bigger. (Today we have 1300 employees all over the world.)

As DDB grew more famous, its creative people began to be wooed by other agencies. I succumbed to such a temptation and went elsewhere for much more money and, as I thought much more glory. Two years and four agencies later I asked Bill and Phyllis if they would have me back. Many of the people who left DDB have felt the same way -- that, after all, it is the best of all possible agencies. I was one of the lucky ones who returned.

The last thing I would like to tell you about, very briefly, is how DDB has changed between 1949, when I first knew it, and 1966.
It is not the same agency ---and I don't just mean in size or billings. Our "style" has changed and changed and changed again over the years. And by “style" I do not mean a layout or type style, but rather a point-of-view an attitude to the consumer. As the market changed -- as the consumer became more sophisticated -- as DDB matured -- our ads developed along with it. One very important influence in this constant change is the fact that so many of our innovations were copied. As soon as that happens, we feel compelled to abandon this innovation and search and search for something fresh.
We have a way of referring to these various styles by the year in which they saw their heyday. We say something looks like "DDB 1954" or "DDB 1962", as though it were a vintage year on a wine bottle.

At home I have a bulging file of yellowed old proofs -- ads I did over the span of a decade or more, I do not like to look through these files. They make me wince. I am embarrassed by the things I was so proud of 5 or even 3 years ago. I think that is, on the whole, a healthy sign. It seems to indicate that my standards -- along with the agency's standards -- are constantly rising.
I told you before how Bill Bernbach has managed to foster a whole generation of creative people to work under his leadership. He himself has changed, along with his agency -- or rather, the agency has changed along with him.
Bill is no longer the rebel, the iconoclast -- he has become the statesman. He startled me the other day when he turned down a commercial that hit very, very hard and mercilessat a competitive product.
He said, "There is one thing more important than doing good advertising. And that is being nice people."
Bill Bernbach's agency is no longer the child prodigy of the advertising business. We, are in the ripeness of young middle age.
ln terms of human ages, l would say Doyle Dane Bernbach feels likejust about 40.

We are the generation of John F. Kennedy. Kennedy’s favorite word was “vigor. I think that is a word that fits well into the DDB situation today.
In the last few years, an amazing number of very bright, very imaginative young agencies have sprung up all over New York. The press delights in talking about these agencies as giving DDB tough competition. What most people don't realize is that in almost every case the creative movers in these agencies are former DDB’ers.

Take Papert, Koenig, Lois. Take Jack Tinker & Partners. Or Wells, Rich, Green. 0r Gilbert. Our friends and former associates are among the guiding lights in them all.

I think it is very exciting that we are now spawning this litter of bright young agencies. I also think it is great that we no longer monopolize the award shows. There are many new agency names among the medal winners -- and DDB people, instead of just being recipients, now sit on the committees, judge the shows, teach advertising courses at universities, and give speeches.

Most of us, however, must give our speeches to the same familiar Americans in the same old place. I am extremely fortunate. I had a fresh, new -- to me extremely interesting -- audience, in one of the most beautiful countries I have ever visited.

Thank you with all my heart.

"My favorite ad" on 'DDB News' June 1.1969


This is one of the first ads I ever did.
The art director was a guy called Helmut Krone.
It started out as a l-column newspaper ad on brandied cherries.
Under the word "delicious" was a brandied cherry with stem.
Under the words "wasn't it?" was the stem alone.
There was an intelligent young account man on
Barton's called Neil Schreckinger. He thought the ad
was so brill iant that it should run in larger space. So the
lone l-column cherry became a full-page box. It turned
into something of a classic and ran many times.
In those days an ad with a one-two punch was quite revolutionary.