[FIBRA Jury] Kevin Brady (ECD, Droga5): It took me a long time to realize this, but I’ve noticed that agencies are incredibly reflective of their founders

[FIBRA Jury] Kevin Brady (ECD, Droga5): It took me a long time to realize this, but I’ve noticed that agencies are incredibly reflective of their founders

You're about to meet a contemporary explorer of the world, with no concept of failure. His name is Kevin. 

Kevin wanted to be a diplomat and studied Foreign Affairs in college. At the same time, he started his own new wave band and was convinced they would make it big. Mental note: while writing hundreds of songs and running the business side of things, he also found time to teach school, coach tennis or do theatre. 

5 years and 5 albums later, he realized maybe that wasn't going to happen. And, since 3-minute pop songs and 30-second commercials are not-so-distant cousins, his musical experience led the way to advertising. 

The Kevin we're talking about is the Jury President we aimed for with our barefaced adventure known as "Droga vs. Bogusky". He is Kevin Brady, Executive Creative Director, Droga5. A kinder place to work at than any of the other New York based agencies he met on the way (Young & Rubicam, Publicis, Lowe, Bozell, among others), under the rule of ideas and a restless drive to always take them a step further than the last. Kind of like the man behind it, David Droga.

Until he comes to the FIBRA Awards, let's meet Kevin below: a humble, well-rounded creative who doesn't seem to ever want to sit still.

Aici gasiti varianta in limba romana a interviului.


Kevin Brady: the winding road to advertising

I studied foreign affairs with a focus on Latin American politics in college. I wanted to be a diplomat. And I enjoyed that part of my studies. But I joined a new wave band and did that for three years in school.

When I graduated, I decided that our band was about to make it big and I was going to commit myself to it. Five years and five albums later, I realized that perhaps I was wrong. But it is not something I regret. I wrote hundreds of songs, ran a creative group and did the business end of it.

Looking back, many of those skills really served me well in advertising. It’s surprising how similar a three-minute pop song can be to a 30-second commercial. Both have concepts, compressed words and choruses/taglines. And with both, you learn how to work with others in a creative way.

I also got a chance to learn other things in that time. I taught school, coached tennis, built a car from scratch, did theater and got into protest politics. Looking back, that stuff has made me a little more well-rounded as a person and a creative.


In what ways is Droga5 different than other ad agencies?

I worked at probably 10 different agencies around New York before I ended up at Droga5. From the beginning, Droga5 was different from all the others. And even though we've grown from 17 people (when I started) to over 500, I still feel like the place is unique in the world of advertising.

There’s a greater emphasis on the idea, a greater emphasis on the thought behind the ad and, somehow, it’s a kinder place than most places I’ve worked in.

It took me a long time to realize this, but I’ve noticed that agencies are incredibly reflective of their founders. David Droga is somebody who is very, very driven. He never wants to rest on his laurels. And if he’s done it once, it bores him the second time.

I remember walking down the steps at Cannes after winning a big award. And he was really enjoying the moment, too. But by the bottom step he was saying, “But what do we have for next year?” He is insatiable in that way. He’s also fair and kind, and truly values contributions from every level of the agency.

He’s someone for whom the idea is king, and when he has something he loves, he will stop everything and move heaven and earth to make it happen. So I think those values have really stayed around and permeated the entire agency.

At first, I thought we couldn’t maintain that as a much larger agency, because nobody would have time with David. But, it turns out, the culture has a sneaky way of getting out.

You have to work at it a lot, but I like to think we still have a lot of the traits we had when we first started.

We value each department, love great ideas and keep Droga5 a warm place to work. All that feels different in relation to other places I’ve worked.


On creating ads that are honest

I think honest work is related to desire, and to have the desire for honesty as your goal, then keep that goal front and center is key.

I’m not saying you can always stay 100 percent pure. I think we’ve all had moments in which we didn’t love the product we were advertising, but every brief and every new client is an opportunity to remind yourself of the type of work you want to put into the world.

It doesn’t have to always be for a PSA, but it can be a unique and clever reflection of a true insight. That’s honest, too. It doesn't mean you’ll always be successful, or that you won't have to suck it up sometimes, but at least it’s a good North Star.


What best nourishes creativity in a team or an individual?

Research and strategy is big. Being a good citizen of the world - and not just advertising - is big. Being a geek helps. Having somebody say no to your first four rounds of work can help push you into new directions.

Having a safe culture that encourages random thoughts without judgment and having a partner that does the same nourishes creativity, too. And looking at other work is important, but maybe not the most important thing.


Say you had an extra dose of courage. Would it go to agencies or clients?

I’ve worked at a lot of places where I would say agency, but working where I do, I would say client — even though we have some pretty brave clients.

Why? I think anybody who has been in advertising knows the answer to that question.

But now, more than ever, you have to stand out to have your brand be noticed at all, and I just wish clients knew that taking the safe route is actually riskier these days.


What’s your favorite ad project to date and why?

Boy, that is a hard one. I've been lucky to work on a lot of things that have been special to me. Honey Maid, a Jay-Z project, the Y, and some work for Clinton.

But if I had to pick one project, I think I would say the “Day One” project by Prudential.

We spent the very first day of retirement with 10 different people. We knew nothing going into the shoot, and we had barely spoken with the retirees involved. We wanted a pure experience, not an advertising one.

It was powerful to spend this one crucial day with these people. It started out like a normal day, but the weight of it was apparent. After all, it was a day in which they were transitioning from 40 years of working to something completely new and unknown.

In the end, it was a very emotional and humbling experience, and I hope that comes across in the films.


What do you think your Day One will look like?

What's funny is that I haven’t thought about Day One at all, just like most people when it comes to the subject of retirement. I doubt there will be a hard and firm date, as I’m sure I’ll keep working — or at least making a nuisance of myself somewhere — in some way.

But as far as what I want to have achieved by then, I really would like to continue making more societal work — stuff that impacts the real world as much as possible.

I’d also like to reinvent myself a bit, dig deeper into the techy side of things and find the emotion and the story there.


Awards, festivals & such

I'm really not much of an award guy. I think Cannes is probably valued the most, so it's always good to win one of those.

For me, festivals are always about the inspiration. The people in my office always hate when I go to a festival, because I come back inspired and envious and impatient — but that’s always a good thing.

You have to make the effort to see new ideas by going to see the work and going to the talks.

A good show should make you a little mad that you didn’t think of these ideas, but also inspired to see how you can build on what you saw.


Your coming to Romania’s FIBRA Awards

I am not too familiar with Romanian advertising, but I am eager to learn, be inspired and see a lot of amazing work. I hope to see some unique ideas and, hopefully, to encounter a local style and local advertising vision.

The biggest things I’ve learned from past juror experiences are to listen more than talk, that every opinion in the room is a valuable one and that you have to watch out for politics.


To those submitting work

You win at the final day of the edit, when you hit print or when you finish a product that you know you have taken to its highest place. Everything else is gravy—gravy covered in lead, then painted to look like gold.

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