“Advertising is deeply personal,” Beyond the Brief featuring Pete VonDerLinn, Partners + Napier

Partners + Napier ECD, Pete VonDerLinn

Not often do you hear a top creative be proud of his team winning an Effie, but Partners + Napier is cut from a different cloth — so is their executive creative director Pete VonDerLinn.

The Rochester-based agency had always been a results-driven agency — reformatting its methods years ago to become a more efficient agency for its clients. VonDerLinn, for his part, was sold on the opportunity to create work that wasn’t just beautiful or innovative, but paid dividends on the clients bottom line: an “Effie agency culture”, he calls it. Effective doesn’t have to mean boring, though. Examples include spots of humor from Highmark Blue Cross and splashes of realness for the Outdoor Advertising Association of America.

VonDerLinn’s leadership has been integral to Partners’ success, to say the very least. Aside from leading a squad of 40 talented creatives, he has served as president of the Rochester Ad Federation, and as a judge for the Effie Awards.. He’ll even tell you how best to beat the summertime doldrums, and use his house as a Super Bowl watch party (for research).

A creative director who’s obsessed with the results without sacrificing creativity, VonDerLinn is setting the pace for his agency by living beyond the brief.

What was your proudest career moment?

Unquestionably, when I had the privilege of telling our shop we won our first Effie. It was the “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” I set for us when I first became ECD. We didn’t expect to win the first year we entered, but we did. And when I announced it at an agency meeting, everyone went wild. We’ve had what I like to call an “Effie culture” at Partners + Napier ever since.

Your favorite campaign (that isn’t yours) and why?

Mine is the original Dos Equis “World’s Most Interesting Man.” It’s a flawless campaign. I’ve watched men drinking in bars go silent to watch the spots when they pop onto the TV. The writing, casting, film are perfect. They make me laugh every time I watch them. Sales soared. And I love the fact that the CD talked the client back into the brave work at the 11th hour, after they got cold feet and almost killed the campaign.

Where is your happy place/space?

My happy place is home. Rochester is such a sanctuary to return to after I’ve been on business trips to places like LA, Dallas, NYC, Atlanta, etc. It’s not unusual to see deer running through my neighborhood when I pull onto my street returning from the airport – and the stress just melts away. Then, I get to step into the modern home my wife and I designed. Being with my family always settles me and reminds me there are bigger things in life than the next great campaign.

Is work too personal or not personal enough at times? Why is that?

Both. Advertising is deeply personal because there’s no way to detach yourself from the work you create. It comes from your mind, heart and soul. It’s influenced by family, friends and experiences. The best ad people give everything they’ve got to make their clients’ brands great. And give up much of what’s personally important to them to do it. The best clients do the same. But too often, the mutual blood, sweat and tears don’t result in client/agency loyalty. We’re lucky to have client/agency tenures far beyond the industry average, to which we attribute to the growth of our agency.

To celebrate its 100th Anniversary, the 4A’s has partnered with us at The Drum to pull back the curtain and look at an industry full of problem solvers, creative types and analytical minds. But what keeps them going once the briefs are written, the campaigns executed, and the pitches won (or lost)? We’re interviewing 100 people at 4A’s member agencies — across all disciplines, levels, regions, and agency types — to get a glimpse into what drives them at work and what fuels them in life.

To pitch someone from a 4A's member agency for Beyond the Brief, please complete this linked form.

Search The Drum Jobs

Explore the best jobs in Marketing and Media industries
View all open jobs

Bennett Bennett

Bennett D. Bennett is a staff writer at The Drum covering agencies, the media landscape, creativity and innovation. An NYC native, MAIP alum and City College of New York grad, Bennett previously was an award-winning copywriter at BBDO New York and lends his unique perspective and voice to The Drum's editorial staff. Previously a member of the Adcolor Advisory Board, he currently sits on the AAF's Mosaic Next-Generation Leadership Council and the 4As Steering Committee.

All by Bennett