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IHAVEANIDEA.ORG > creatives >  Andrew Keller
Andrew Keller

akinside Andrew KellerPartner/Co-Executive Creative Director
Crispin Porter + Bogusky

When you enter the ad industry, something becomes very clear rather quickly : everybody in the world wants to work at Crispin, even if they don’t know it yet. Be it for the wacky Burger King campaigns, Alex Bogusky’s personal guitar lessons, or the clean air you’ll breathe in the Colorado mountains. Or simply because they’re the hottest kids in town, and that more often than not the work they come out with gets noticed within and outside the ad world.

If ever you register as one of the lucky few who land such a gig, there’s a good chance you’ll be calling Andrew Keller your boss. Andrew has been there since before the glowing compliments in my earlier paragraph were printable and has been one of the main creative forces behind the work that took the shop to such heights. Which kind of puts the whole “try to get into the hottest shop around” Vs ” joining a relative outsider and making them the hottest shop around” debate into perspective.

Here’s what Andrew had to tell us.

ihaveanidea: So how did you stumble into advertising?  Why didn’t you become a doctor or something?

Andrew: I was actually supposed to be a doctor (Laughs) . Goes back a long way. The first time I thought it would be for me was when I was in third grade. It was career day and someone’s Dad came in and spoke about advertising. He talked about doing ads for Mello Yello and Waffle-O cereals.

It was a long time ago. Mello Yello was just launching back then. They showed us the commercial and there was a racecar driver and after he won the race he chugged a Mello Yello. The whole thing was that Mello Yello was less carbonated a drink, so you could chug it unlike most soft drinks. I just thought it was so cool, the strategy behind how they were getting people to think, what was important about the creative execution and how they went about achieving that. That was the first time I was exposed to advertising and it stuck with me ever since. It seemed like something I might be interested in doing.

It’s interesting, the last time I saw advertising for Mello Yello the line was  “Mello Yello is not so mellow’’.  Which I often use as an example for the places we get ourselves into in advertising.  Is it better to just cerate a new name or do an ad campaign that completely disclaims the name of the product?

ihaveanidea:  So how did you end up at Crispn then? Did Chuck hire in the 6th grade?

Andrew: (Laughs) Advertising kept showing up again and again but I still thought I was going to become a doctor. I was an English major and was pre-Med in college.  I didn’t do great on the MCAP and I realized I didn’t really want to be a doctor. Or that I didn’t want to take tests rather. And I didn’t think I really wanted to teach English either, so I played in bands for a few years and through the band I found out about the Portfolio Centre, which was in my home town of Atlanta.

So I thought “well you’ve always thought about this advertising thing, so maybe I should do that”.

So I went there. And this friend of mine had already graduated and he really wanted to get into Crispin, but they weren’t hiring then. So, got offered a job at the Martin Agency and took it.

Then the next day Alex called him and said to come down and when he told him he’d just taken a job at the Martin agency, Alex asked if he knew anyone else.

So my friend recommended me and I went down there, interviewed and did some freelance work, but I didn’t get the job. So I went down to Portland Oregon and worked there for two years. And when that felt like it wasn’t going where I wanted , the guy I was working with at the time said ‘’ You know the guys at Crispin, let’s go interview down there’’. So, we went down and interviewed with them and then I started there in ’98.

ihaveanidea:  It was easy back in those days, eh?  “Why don’t we just go down and interview?“

Andrew: Exactly ( laughs). It was 70 people back then, maybe less. They were doing great work. Florida Truth had just begun and it was a great time to start there.

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ihaveanidea: Everyone is always saying to be a good Creative you have to have done something different before hand. For instance some people are shark catchers or prison guards, personally I think that’s BS but as much as your personal experiences are going to affect the way you write don’t you think that’s completely at odds with what ad schools are trying to achieve?

Andrew: Well, I don’t think I would study advertising in college, personally. In general I believe in a liberal arts background.  But everything is different for different people. Someone may not get much out of a liberal arts education.  Maybe some people know exactly what they want to do and they do it.  As far as ad schools go, you’re learning skills and a trade. I didn’t know how to work the computer, I didn’t know the rules of design.  I didn’t necessarily know how to concept, so it’s 2 years of immersion into the skills that I would need.  So I think studying advertising in college may be at odds with the skills you need in advertising but ad schools in general are short immersion programs to garner the skills you need to work at an ad agency on a basic level.

In general what I’m interested in are experiences that have exposed you to the malleability of culture. If you’ve been a prison guard, it’s an interesting  job but it doesn’t suggest to me you’d be great in advertising but it may suggest you’re an adventurous person or that you’re interested in the security of the free world. Personally, I’d be more interested in people who’ve had to sell things or sell themselves to achieve at a high level or have lived in other countries and can look at America and talk about the cultural things happening in American, and how they are not just phases and not take culture for granted.

ihaveanidea: Do you think old-fashioned ad campaigns i.e. TV and print only can still solve clients problems and turn heads?

Andrew: I do, but clients still need to include a cocktail that includes interactive, they’ve got to be more progressive in terms of media and the way they express ideas. But I wouldn’t say the old system is broken just yet.  I mean TV if you have enough money has huge potential to get the word out and get social media going and become a catalyst for debate and discussion. I’m not against it, but I’d make sure my decision would be purposeful. I wouldn’t begin a conversation saying “okay, we’ve got TV, and print, now what are we gonna do?”

I would definitely be looking for ways to create a digital or interactive connection to any campaign  that you’re doing . It’s a complete missed opportunity if you’re not doing that.

ihaveanidea: Do you think some companies or brands actually don’t have a place online? Or is it a case of everybody having a place, and for them to find it?

Andrew: You have to do it case by case obviously, but no, I think everyone has to find relevance online. Every industry is experiencing some sort of paradigm shift and it all connects to the interactive and digital world. If it hasn’t impacted your world yet, it will. And if you’re not getting ahead of it you’ll be behind it. You will pay a price. Whether it’s about advertising or just about business, you’ve got to be engaging in this new world and social media or the internet. I just don’t think anything can remain untouched by it.
mini polybag reprint Andrew Keller

ihaveanidea: So, do you guys miss Miami at all?

Andrew: (Laughs) Well we still have a pretty big agency there so we still talk to everyone there frequently and a lot of people still go back and forth quite a bit. We also have Polycom so we interact with the people in Miami a lot. It’s the people there that I would miss most. I don’t necessarily miss it as a place, although I do love Miami. It was perfect for my stage in my life. I didn’t have kids then and now I have two sets of twin boys, a big family and we love our life here. But there’s nothing wrong with grilling a turkey outside in 72 degree weather for Thanksgiving.

ihaveanidea:  How has Boulder changed your lifestyle, outside of advertising? Everybody knows you moved there because Alex likes mountain biking, but what about for everybody else who isn’t necessarily into that sort of stuff?

Andrew: I would say my age has had a greater impact on my lifestyle than where I live. In terms of having kids, and in terms of having somewhat of a midlife crisis. But skiing is something new. I grew up in Atlanta and there wasn’t much skiing there.  That’s been a huge lifestyle change. All my kids ski and it’s been fun a lot of fun embracing that. Boulder is a really healthy place; in terms of eating right, in terms of being influenced by the environment. It’s a fun place to live and be influenced by all that.

ihaveanidea: I had a friend who described it as ‘’going to a bar and 60 % of the people there are co-workers”

Andrew: (Laughs) Yeah, it’s a small place. 90-100,000 people live in Boulder. But it was voted the smartest city in the US. It’s a really interesting place. 30,000 people go to the school but we’ve got a Tesla dealership on Main St. It’s a really eclectic mix. I can drive 30 min and ski or hike in my back yard. And then there’s NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that does all the satellite and hurricane information is just down the street. There’s just not many places like Boulder.

mini suv Andrew Keller

ihaveanidea: My next question is about your friend Evan Fry who just ran away and started Victors & Spoils, an agency based off a crowdsourcing model. How much can those types of places really accomplish? Could they be trusted with the whole brand campaign as opposed to small projects here and there?

Andrew: Well it remains to be seen.  But there are a lot of barriers to it that have a lot to do with the client. How transparent are they comfortable being?  Clients are very secretive about their strategy and product launches and proprietary information.  So there’s that challenge. It’s going to be right for certain clients that’re willing to open up their process, be transparent about what they’re doing, and engage everyone in the world to throw in ideas on their projects. I think that’s why it will start with smaller less sensitive projects.

In terms of the talent, I think a lot of people are out of jobs so there’s definitely a lot of talent out there that can be utilized. But in general it’s not much different from a freelance concept. You can hire as many people as you want, but you’ll still need someone, a CD, to oversee that project and the quality will come down to that person.  It’s really hard to say, it can go lots of ways. Like when planning started, a lot of the planners become famous because they came up with a brilliant strategy and then everyone thought “we should get some planning!”

Planning isn’t good or bad, or successful or unsuccessful. The same goes for crowdsourcing. It’s a nice way of tapping into talent that’s not being utilized right now, but it’s all going to depend on the clients and the people managing these projects for how much future there is in it.

ihaveanidea: That actually sounds like somewhat of a threat to Creatives? Wouldn’t agencies look at it and just think “hey, that’ll be cheaper…”

Andrew: You have to look at it from different perspectives. Why do some people freelance and why do some people work at agencies?  A lot of it has to do with the projects you get to work on. I think if you’re an exceptional talent, agencies will be looking to retain exceptional talent.

So in some ways it could be seen as a threat, but it could also be the thing that’ll make you feel confident in your abilities or frees up go to live in Hawaii and just jump on a few Crowd Sourcing projects whenever you want. I think it remains to be seen. The pace of advertising, the reality of confidentiality and the working knowledge that creatives need on a brand to be able to make the right decisions to move forward will require agencies to retain exceptional talent. We don’t use much freelance; I don’t think it’s the greatest system to be honest. And Crowdsourcing is another version of that. I tend to look at the more positive side of things, so I wouldn’t think about how it threatens me as a creative but rather how it could free me up and allow me to work on more projects.

weekly world news Andrew Keller

ihaveanidea: You mentioned you have to two sets of twin boys. I’m guessing they don’t care about advertising, but would you like them to?

Andrew: It’s funny, when my kids were younger, they would watch TV and when a commercial comes on, and they think the show is over. So I always thought there was a funny message in there (Laughs)

Right now they just love whatever their dad does. They think that I work at Burger King. They think that I work at Gap. They like to play Dominos; they have a whole kitchen set up where they take orders and do deliveries. So they don’t really understand the difference between advertising and working for the company, and in some ways it’s a pretty good way to think of it. But right now, they like the fact that I work on Guitar Hero because it means they get DJ Hero for Christmas.

I’m not sure if any of them will go into advertising. One of my sons wants to be an artist and I think he thinks he’ll make a lot of money being an artist so maybe that will lead to a career in advertising. (Laughs)

ihaveanidea: You must make a great impression at career day when your kid introduces you as “my dad who used to be a in a rock band and now works for Burger King”. But moving on, If advertising didn’t exist, what would you be doing? Is there anything else that you’ve always been good at?

Andrew: It’s a great question, I love adverting, and I think I was designed for this.  My other passion is music. But I’m very happy in advertising. It’s where I feel my calling is.

But if I did something else, it may have to do with music, I love to perform and entertain but again, I get to do all of that within advertising so it’s a field where you get to express yourself in as many ways as you want.

Interview by:

rafikcreditpic Andrew Keller

Rafik Belmesk
Operations, AKOS

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