'Remind people that they matter': Beyond the Brief with Bradley Kay, SS+K
To celebrate its 100th Anniversary, the 4A’s has partnered with 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.
Bradley Kay is a president and partner at SS+K, an advertising agency that combines mission-based ethics with a creative edge. Through his and his partner's work at SS+K, they have generated growth by adding clients including Amazon Web Services, Canyon Ranch, Delta, E*Trade, HBO, Jet, Match, NCAA, Samsung, Starbucks, and Wells Fargo.
Before joining SS+K, Kay was the executive vice president and executive director FCB’s digital, social media, and innovation practice and a part of the leadership team. Before that, he co-founded Merkley ID, the digital and design segment of Merkley + Partners, an Omnicom agency. He has also held account management positions at Ogilvy, Cliff Freeman & Partners and Saatchi & Saatchi.
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In addition to his agency work, he is a board member for the Advertising Educational Foundation (AEF), and chairman of the Digital Committee. He’s also an agency advisory board member to the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB).
Kay’s love for the advertising industry, as well as his desire to create a supportive environment, shows how he is living beyond the brief.
Who is your hero and why?
My wife. She’s a pretty incredible woman — smart, caring, compassionate, hardworking, and loving. She has the strength of 10,000 men, juggles a career and motherhood effortlessly and still makes time for me and the deep-rooted friendships in her life. She balances me, challenges me, and encourages me to be the best version of myself. Caren has little time or tolerance for the fake or inauthentic.
My brother. One of the brightest, wisest, most learned, disciplined people I know. He’s an incredible father, husband, friend, and brother. His intelligence, hard work, determination, entrepreneurial spirit, and self-made success have enabled him to create the optimal work, life balance. As a result, he always has time for family and friends. He's a principled person who lives his life with ideals that are easy to admire.
My parents. They are kind and compassionate, loving and loyal, and after 50+ years of marriage, they are still the best of friends. They have instilled kindness, compassion, empathy, optimism, and resilience in me and I am grateful for their love, guidance, friendship and unconditional support.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your advertising career?
Find positive daily rituals and cultivate them. Remind people that they matter. And equally importantly, don’t forget to remind yourself of this too. Be respectful to everyone — the waitress, the cab driver, the person who collects money at the toll, your loved ones — everyone. Never forget, we’re in a service business and everyone deserves to be respected.
How do you practice self-care?
I follow a pretty rigorous routine to stay mentally and physically balanced. I usually wake up around 5:15 a.m. during the week to do some combination of cross-functional training, running, weight training or yoga depending on the day. I’ve found this routine calms my mind and keeps me fit. I also eat a pretty clean and balanced diet. Don’t get me wrong, I drink and have plenty of sweets (chocolate is my achilles heel) but try not to do anything in excess. I subscribe to the adage, everything in moderation…including moderation.
What life advice do you give others?
Tell the people you love that you love them often. Try hard to approach each day with a positive disposition. Stay intellectually curious and engaged. Find things that make you happy and spend time cultivating those experiences. Find a few good friends and bear hug the shit out of them. Don’t just listen to people, hear what they’re saying (and not saying). Travel... often. Stay away from “batteries not included” people. They’ll suck energy from you.
How would you define “A life well-lived”?
When I die, will people say I was kind, empathetic, generous and thoughtful? Was I a good son, father, husband, brother, friend and business partner? Did I make good decisions about how I spent my time and with who? Does my inner-circle know how important they are to me at all times? Did I raise kids that are strong, compassionate, kind, smart, respectful, self-sufficient, global citizens of the world? Did I impact people's lives for the better? Will I be missed?
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