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'Great work benefits everybody': Beyond the Brief featuring Rob Bloom, &Barr

&Barr associate creative director Rob Bloom

&Barr associate creative director Rob Bloom probably knew he was geared for this career path at age eight when he created his own humor magazine. There were many booger jokes, we were told.

Bloom joined the Orlando-based shop earlier this year after spending a year building creative teams for Noble Brands. By then, the University of Florida and Creative Circus alum had built up quite the portfolio. The extensive list includes work for Quilted Northern and Brawny, BASF and iShares, the 76ers and Atlanta Falcons, Volvo and Yamaha. But it goes without saying that true learning comes through experience — The Integer Group, JWT Atlanta, Moxie, and 22squared all provided lessons for him outside of creating from briefs.

It’s often said (or maybe not at all) that a good copywriter is a creature of chaos, one who thrives off of the opportunity to adapt for any brand, any situation. For Bloom, that involves comedy writing, something he’s done for years for satire sites McSweeneys, The Onion (kinda), NPR and others.

Not only funny but accomplished at it, Bloom won a screenwriting competition for the Upright Citizens Brigade, the winning script being turned into a film that played in over 20,000 screens nationwide. And his humor also won the hearts of the Erma Bombeck Foundation, a Phoenix-based charity for kidney transplants named after the celebrated humorist. Laughter’s the best medicine, and Bloom provides it for so many.

A warm-hearted funnyman (and former Walt Disney World chipmunk) who keeps peers and friends chuckling headline after headline, Bloom takes living beyond the brief seriously — but not too seriously.

What was your most embarrassing career moment?

I had just taken a new job at an agency and was trying to prove myself. I wrote a couple of radio spots that I thought were pretty funny and was excited to present them to the client. So I'm on the call, acting out the scripts, when I misread a line. I wanted to say “sly dog” but instead said “slutty dog.” I lost it. Couldn't stop laughing. The client wasn’t amused and the account director was seething.

Craziest thing you’ve seen happen in a new business pitch?

There’s a lot you can’t control in a new business pitch. One thing you can control is the work you bring to the table. My team and I were proud of the two big ideas we had to share in this instance. The ideas were fun, creative, and grounded in strategy. I was a few minutes into pitching the first idea when the client interrupts me to announce that he and his team were going to leave the room for 15 minutes so we can regroup and come up with work that doesn’t suck.

What keeps you sane in this industry? What keeps you driven to do great work?

What keeps me sane? Unquestionably, my family. They’re the three most important people in my world and a constant reminder of what really matters.

As far as being driven, what’s the alternative? With what we do, everybody in the agency should be driven to do better work — creative, strategy, account, everybody. Great thinking, great work benefits everybody. I also love the challenge of showing clients they can think about their business in a different way.

What’s a virtue that you live by?

I have two. One from my grandfather who lived to be 99 1/2. He always said, “every job is easier with the right tools.” I think of that almost day because it’s absolutely true and applies to so many situations.

The other comes from my dad, another one of my heroes. He taught me “it never hurts to ask.” So many times, people assume the answer to a question will be “no.” You’d be surprised how many times the answer turns out to be “yes.”

What life advice do you give others?

Step out of your comfort zone. I started stuttering at the age of three and spent close to three decades in speech therapy. If someone had told me that, one day, I’d be pitching big ideas to Bon Jovi or giving a keynote to 300 people at a marketing conference, I wouldn’t have believed it. Turns out that I love public speaking. But that’s something I wouldn’t have discovered if I hadn’t challenged myself to step out of my comfort zone.

Where is your happy place/space?

The turkey leg cart in the Magic Kingdom.

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.