I would love to work on Brand USA.  Our country is outmarketed by other destinations that spend more to attract visitors to their countries.  We have so much to offer and we know that once we get people here to visit or to study, they have a much higher regard for us as a nation and as a people. 

question Please give us a brief (if that’s possible) background on yourself.

I grew up in rural Indiana and became fascinated with advertising and brands at an early age; I particularly remember examining the countless ads plastered on the walls of the local grocery store where my mom worked when I would go there to help her out. I loved advertising with a passion and took a correspondence course in commercial art, and since I couldn’t afford college, I then interned at a commercial art studio. Later I got a job in a big commercial art studio in Chicago, eventually breaking into the agency business as a copywriter at Needham Louis & Brorby in Chicago.  My first assignment was writing radio scripts for State Farm.  Later I worked on briefs for Mars candies, Johnson’s Wax, Morton Salt, Hasbro toys and General Mills.  I was promoted to creative supervisor, then creative director, and led the pitch to win the McDonald’s account. I wrote the theme line for our first McDonald’s campaign, “You Deserve a Break Today.”  Then I became President and CEO of Needham; later I co-founded Omnicom and led the creation of DDB Worldwide, the merged entity of Needham Harper Worldwide and Doyle Dane Bernbach, and became Chairman and CEO, a position I held from 1986 to 2004; now I am Chairman Emeritus.

question What have been the most memorable moments in your career?

·         Applying for an agency position as an art director and being offered a copywriting job (which I took).

·         Working with talent including Jack Benny, George Carlin, Don Adams, Phil Foster, Jackie Vernon, Dick Cavett, Ed  Wynn, Dave Garroway, Al Capp, Henry Morgan and other humorists and comics you’ve never heard of.

·         Creating and launching McDonald’s first national ad campaign—“You Deserve a Break Today”—which redefined the eating-out category.

·         Meeting the best account person I ever worked with at Needham—Rose-Lee Simons—and marrying her.

·         Winning the Anheuser-Busch account in the early eighties and watching our creative teams produce Super Bowl winning spots year after year for Budweiser and Bud Light.

·         Co-creating Omnicom in 1986 with Allen Rosenshine, John Bernbach and others:  This was the first and only three-way agency merger, and the first holding company based on creativity.

·         Winning back the U.S. McDonald’s account in 1997, 15 years after losing it.

·         Being recognized as the most awarded agency network in the history of the Cannes Festival of Creativity.

question What have been the moments you’d rather forget?

I’ve forgotten them.

question Do you ever consider retirement?

No, not really.  You can’t retire from a true passion.

question Do you feel it’s the younger generation who have all the great ideas or does experience and your natural instinct still give you an edge?

I think those of us with years of experience may have an edge in problem solving because we’ve done it so many times.  We may also have a better grasp of what’s needed to build strong, enduring brands.  But the younger generation brings wild, rule-breaking irreverence and a certain creative naivete that we desperately need.  So the real edge comes when we combine our experience with their fresh thinking.   

question Project wise, what’s the one campaign that stands out in your mind as being the best one your team launched?

My team consisted of 15,000 people in 200 offices around the world, so it’s hard to choose just one.  Our work for Volkswagen in three dozen countries has been consistently brilliant over the 50 years of our association. 

Our work for Anheuser-Busch throughout our 30 year relationship featured standout campaigns like “Whassup” for Budweiser, a campaign that went viral before we even knew what viral meant.  The “Real Men of Genius” radio campaign for Bud Light was the most awarded radio campaign ever, and our Super Bowl work for Bud and Bud Light was ranked fans’ favorite for 12 consecutive years.

I would add one more, the pattern-breaking launch campaign for McDonald’s—“You Deserve a Break Today”— which first aired in 1971.  The jingle was named best jingle of the century by Ad Age, and the lifestyle story commercials featuring “magic moments” involving McDonald’s totally redefined the eating-out industry.  One reporter said our advertising made it “almost unpatriotic to not take your family to McDonald’s.”

question What mobile phone do you carry?

iPhone 4S

question Do you have Instagram installed on your phone?


question Please take a photo with your phone right now and post it to Instagram and share the link with us.


question Who have been your favorite clients over the years?

I’ve been lucky to work with so many great clients and I’ve learned from all of them.   I’ll name four that stand out.

State Farm Insurance was the first client I ever worked for and you never forget your first love.  State Farm not only gave us creative freedom and appreciated great work, they also gave us the freedom to fail, which we did from time to time.  And talk about loyalty!  State Farm has been a client of DDB and its predecessor, Needham, since 1929!

McDonald’s chose us to launch its first national campaign in 1971.  I loved working on McDonald’s because they understood the power of music and emotion and storytelling, and they knew they were selling more than good food, they were selling an experience.  They let us do some great music and tell some great stories over the years.

Anheuser-Busch was an inspiring client.  They believed in the power of a creative idea and they kept challenging us to raise the bar.  And it’s great when a client’s top management is directly involved with the advertising.  That eliminates lots of layers of trembling flesh empowered to say “no.”  Top management at A-B knew the importance of advertising to their brands and the importance of their involvement in it.

Volkswagen has been a DDB client for more than 50 years and in dozens of countries around the world.  Through management changes and model changes through the years, there has always been an appreciation of the special brand personality created back in the sixties by Bill Bernbach and his DDB teams.  This warm, witty and engaging personality has been preserved across borders and across the years.  You have to love a client that understands the power of a unique selling personality and seeks to sustain it and build upon it.

question  Is there a brand you still would love to work with?

I would love to work on Brand USA.  Our country is outmarketed by other destinations that spend more to attract visitors to their countries.  We have so much to offer and we know that once we get people here to visit or to study, they have a much higher regard for us as a nation and as a people. 

I would also like to work on campaigns that tackle our country’s education gap and our economic gap.

question If someone reading this is thinking of starting an agency, what would be the most important tips you could give them?

In a service business, there is only one way you can be better than your competitors:  Hire better people, put them in a better environment and use them better.  In a creative organization, culture is everything.  As Peter Drucker said:  “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

question Is there a project you have seen lately that you wish you’d created?

Several, but the Chipotle work from CAA stands out.

question If the fire alarm goes off right now, what would you grab, if anything?

My wife. But when I asked her the same question she said she’d grab her Chihuahua and let me fend for myself.

question Do you have much spare time to pursue a hobby?

I fiddle with photography and have learned a lot in workshops in New York and Guatemala.

question Most people want to leave their mark on the world by writing a book or maybe having a plant named after their partner… you have been incredibly successful but is there anything you still strive to achieve outside of your work, something to be remembered by?

I hope I might be remembered by some of the young people I’ve been privileged to mentor. 

question Technology continues to rapidly change and grow. Does this scare you or excite you?

The only thing that scares me is when an obsession with technology distracts us from a focus on ideas and content.  Just because technology makes it possible to do something, doesn’t always mean it’s the right thing to do.  As Bill Bernbach said:  “Adapt your techniques to an idea, not an idea to your techniques.”

question Has anyone ever asked you for an autograph?

Yes. Maybe because they glanced casually at my name and thought I was Keith Richards.

question Do you personally respond to all email that is sent for your attention (excluding spam of course), or do you delegate to your team?

Unless a request is misdirected to me or is an appeal for votes or money, I respond personally to every email sent to my attention—as promptly as I can, which could be days.

question We’d love a recommendation from you as to who we should interview next in this series.

Dan Wieden, Allen Rosenshine, John Hegarty, Bob Scarpelli, and Rick Boyko would all be great interviewee choices.

question Thanks for taking time out for this interview and please leave us with one interesting or even intriguing fact about yourself.

My conservative upbringing could hardly have foretold a career in advertising.  I was born and raised as a Mennonite in a very strict community that did not allow movies or television.  The town fathers were convinced that television was an invention of the devil.  Given some of today’s programming, It’s just possible they were right.


Keith Reinhard
Keith Reinhard

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