Throughout my youth I wanted to go to Art Center College of Design in LA, but when I graduated high school the Viet Nam war was in full swing and rather than get drafted, I enlisted in the Air Force.

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

I grew up in the small town of Fontana in Southern California. My father had his own small advertising agency called Advertising Associates. I used to love to watch him draw and create ads at his art table in our garage.

From an early age I was hooked on advertising and would spend more time watching the commercials and looking at the ads than watching or reading what was in-between (something my family says I still do).

Throughout my youth I wanted to go to Art Center College of Design in LA, but when I graduated high school the Viet Nam war was in full swing and rather than get drafted, I enlisted in the Air Force.

I ended up being an “illustrator” which really was just creating flip charts for the brass, but it kept me out of Viet Nam and taught me a great deal about the importance of craft.

Four years later, I finally attended Art Center but left at one year because I could not afford the tuition. I moved to Chicago and after three weeks of sitting in the recruiter’s office of Leo Burnett at noon every day, I landed a job as a junior art director on United Airlines.

Ten years later married with two daughters and having moved to several other agencies in the city, I moved back to California where I got a job at Chiat\Day LA.

Nine years later I moved to Ogilvy New York where I eventually became Co-President and CCO North America.

In 2003, after continually speaking at schools around the country, I realized there was a giant need for a school that taught creatives and marketers together in a collaborative setting. So, I became the Director of the VCU Brandcenter, where over my nine years there, the school doubled in size while its curriculum evolved constantly. 

In March of 2012, the school earned the title of the “Most Innovative Business School in the World”.

In July I retired from the Brandcenter to start a new executive training program called the Leadership Collective, a group comprised of the foremost creative directors, startup founders, marketers, designers, educators and anthropologists from around the country.

In partnership with Advertising Age, we have come together with a mission to help companies become more competitive by liberating the creativity that’s hidden within every organization. 

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

Oh this is hard to condense but:

Working for and learning from Lee Clow, Jay Chiat and Guy Day.

Leading the change of the identity at Ogilvy and presenting it to DO at his Chateau ‘de Touffou in Bonnes, France.

Becoming Co-President, CCO and named to Ogilvy’s World Wide Board.

Ogilvy winning agnecy of the year.

The inception and production of the book Brotherhood after 9/11.

Taking the VCU Adcenter and turning into the VCU Brandcenter.

Taking an old condemned historic building and converting it into an open collaborative environment, that has become a model for the rest of the university.
Of course, my family. My wife, Barbara, my three daughters and three grandchildren. Their support has given my career and my life purpose.

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

Those times when as a leader, you realize that someone who professed to be a friend was only there because of your position.

question Do you ever consider retirement?

Sure, I retired from Ogilvy. I just retired from the Brandcenter. Retiring to me is getting tired or bored of doing the same thing. I have always said and teach that change is necessary. I respect and appreciate change.

When I have tired of, or become comfortable in one thing, change and the fear that it creates, has driven me to take on the risks and challenges of something new.

Moving to Chicago without a job rather than stay in school. Moving to LA with a family and a cut in pay. Leaving Chiat\Day when it was arguably the best agency in 1989 to go to Ogilvy NY. Leaving Ogilvy as Co-President CCO, to go into academia. Leaving the Brandcenter as its named most innovative B-school to start the Leadership Collective. The question for me, is what will I retire to next?

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?

Youth does not hold the franchise on ideas. Ideas can come from anyone at anytime at any age. Just keep your mind open to new thoughts and possibilities and bamm an idea can hit you.  

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

Having played on several teams, there are a few: At Chiat\Day, the Home Savings campaign which ran for several years, building them into one of the countries largest Savings and Loans while winning just about every award there was.

At Ogilvy, winning back American Express six months after the agency lost it to Chiat\Day and then taking the campaign we won it with, global.

At the Brandcenter, designing a new and different academic space with renowned architect, Clive Wilkinson.

Finally while at Ogilvy, getting Brotherhood produced and published with all of the proceeds, totalling a million and a half dollars going to benefit the families of the lost firemen.

question How many hours sleep do you get each night?

I would say on average around 6.

question What are the biggest challenges your company faces?

Our new company has just started. The biggest challenge will be to find and complete several successful programs with three or four clients so that our business grows through positive word of mouth.

question What mobile phone do you carry?


question Do you have Instagram installed on your phone?

Yes, although I don’t use it much since I’m not much on sharing my every move with everyone. 

question Please take a photo with your phone right now and post it to Instagram and share the link with us.
Here is the most recent photo from my phone. My grandson after his bath.

question Who have been your favourite clients over the years?

Again, there have been several through the many different agencies and cities. But without a doubt, the best client I ever worked with was Aldo Papone at American Express. He was a rare client who you wanted to do everything you could to satisfy. He loved being part of the process, and we valued his input because he valued ours. He was a partner, not a client.

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

Yes, The Advertising Industry. It is in dire need of a campaign to change the negative perception that most of the public hold of us. We are consistently ranked at the bottom of respected careers, just below car salesman and just above politicians.

When we are thought of so negatively, is it any wonder that it is becoming harder for us to find and attract young and multicultural talent? You would think that the industry that creates and crafts great stories that aid in building brand value, would want to do the same for itself.

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

Having never started my own agency, but tempted many times, I would say today may be the best time to do so. Agencies have been changing, but not at the speed that is demanded. Small start-ups have the ability to reposition and redefine what they do, for today.

I would also suggest that they remain independent for as long as they can. AKQA and Taxi are two recent agencies that started small, grew independently and only sold after establishing themselves very well.

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

It is a couple of years old, but I thought the Chrysler, Imported from Detroit repositioning by W&K was brilliant; also, the Nike Fuel band developed by R/GA in partnership with Nike. Both agencies have developed long lasting, true partnerships with their clients that the rest of the industry should try and model.

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

A hose.

question Do you personally get involved in the hiring and firing process?

Always. It is the only way to ensure success. Bill Hamilton, my partner for many years, always said: “Hire your replacement”.

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

For too many years, my career took much of my time. Now my pursuit is my family.  

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 have achieved more than I ever could have dreamed. Those I love will remember me.

question Is there anything special you do when your team launches a new project, i.e. something you do at every launch?

Not really.

question Have you ever had an idea which you didn’t pursue and later saw someone make a huge success out of a similar idea?

Not really.

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

I have never been afraid of change; it excites me. The only thing that worries me is keeping up with the speed in which it is happening.

question Has anyone ever asked you for an autograph?

Yes, my wife and children every time the check comes.

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?

Yes, I believe there is nothing more important than personally responding and doing so in a timely fashion.

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

To Keith Reinhard’s list, I would add Lee Clow. It would also be nice to get some people who are not on the agency creative side. Maybe (film) Joe Pytka, (photography) Dennis Manarchy, (client) Aldo Papone, (planner) Jon Steele, (visionary) Bob Greenberg.

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

Throughout my career, I was never afraid of being fired. In turn, that freed me to stand up for what I believed in and take risks that I would never have done if I was worried about losing my job.  
Rick Boyko
Rick Boyko

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