‘The best ‘whole brands’ will win’: Beyond the Brief with Tim Galles, Barkley

Tim Galles, Barkley

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)? The Drum is now 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.

Tim Galles is the chief idea officer at Barkley, an agency run out of Kansas City, Missouri. The independent include clients such as Dairy Queen, WingStop, S'Well Water Bottles, Russell Athletic and agricultural goods giant Cargill in its roster.

In his personal life, Tim has a wife and two daughters. He also dedicates himself to philanthopric efforts, including Big Brother, Big Sisters and sitting on the board for Big Picture Learning, which works on curriculum and school design, focused on teaching one child at a time through personal passions and interests.

Galles' passion for advertising, as well as his passion for ideas, shows how he is living beyond the brief.

If you started an agency from scratch today, what would it look like?

It would be a small group of brave, optimistic, strategic and creative generalists with a strong “idea ethic,” operating more like a band of navigators with a 360-degree “whole brand” perspective, nimble and ready to solve root challenges and create new opportunities. I am really interested in creating a “band mentality,” where each band can deliver on a range of solutions but each member of the band brings something different and unique to the whole. Basically, The Beatles or Radiohead as an advertising agency. Of course, with George Martin and Nigel Godrich as account directors.

Key to this is the notion of a strong idea ethic, which I see as the relentless pursuit of the one right idea that solves the core problem. A strong idea ethic means you do whatever it takes to not only get to that one right idea but to make sure it sees the light of day. Core teams of strategic and creative generalists can turn over rocks faster and get to that one right idea much better and more frequently than any traditional team structure.

Who or what influenced you to get into advertising?

When I was a kid, my dad bought a bunch of George Lois’s seminal book on advertising, called The Art of Advertising. It was a big, beautiful book but it sat on my bookshelf for years before I ever picked it up. I loved the way the book looked, so I took it to college with me. Still, I never opened it. One day, in my junior year, I opened it. Boom. I was hooked. George Lois showed me not only was creativity a noble pursuit, but that creativity could solve almost any problem. He practiced creativity without borders, and he believed you are unarmed without an idea. I’ve lived by those beliefs ever since. George is a true creative generalist.

Who, or what, do you consider the future of the industry?

People will be able to choose what brands they spend time with and set their own preferences. In this scenario, the best “whole brands” will win. Not the best communicators, the best at digital marketing or the best at activations- the best brands, period.

It’s no secret that our role is changing and needs to change. The people that understand consumers don’t love brands but do love ideas will have an endless future- they will actually be responsible for making better brands, not just better advertising. The first step is defining a brand as the sum of a company’s actions, beliefs and behaviors, not just their communications. Brands are really a collection of connected ideas, inside and out. I call it the brand’s operating system. These ideas run the gamut of business ideas to communication ideas and every idea in between. People will always love useful, helpful, elegant, entertaining and addictive ideas. The winners will be the brands with the best of these ideas and the creative companies that can help create them.

What’s your favorite thing about your hometown? What (in)tangible thing have you taken from there?

I grew up in New Mexico. It’s a big state with very few people. The land and the skies are dramatic and play a daily role in people’s lives. I’m convinced they fueled my sense of authenticity and optimism that has never left me (or it could’ve been the massive amounts of chile I’ve consumed).

Where was the last place you travelled to? What did you learn from that trip?

I just got back from Shanghai. It was amazing to experience a never-ending, modern city colliding with an ancient culture. I love what parts of the West resonate and are adopted but how the culture of the East dominates and is shaping Shanghai’s future. I think the operating system of Shanghai is really the street food, which has its own culture and has inspired me endlessly.

What non-advertising things do you draw inspiration from?

Japanese vending machines, Radiohead, the brand, not the band, bookstores, chefs, cities, my daughters and my wife.

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

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Haley Velasco

Haley Velasco is a writer based in Chicago, IL, who has a background in PR for a sports media company and has reported on a variety of topics, including sports, opinion, politics and celebrity news. Based in the Windy City, she covers industry happenings in the Midwest and throughout North America. She has been reporting for The Drum since May 2016.

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