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BBDO’s Lubars: ‘This is no time for the ad industry to call the waambulence’

BBDO’s David Lubars says to ‘keep on keepin’ on’

The Drum’s 3 Actionable Insights series asks top industry leaders to share their thoughts about the actions our readers should take immediately. Today, BBDO chairman and chief creative officer David Lubars tells us why messy times require messy people and that complaining will get you nowhere.

1. Never let the cement harden

When people ask me what my job is I say, ‘it’s constantly stirring the cement so it stays liquid – and it’s messy, but flows the way the world needs it to.’ This is opposed to getting stuck in some block, and then the world leaves you behind. Every day in today’s world, every day you wake up it’s a zero-sum [game]. There’s no defined horizon line anymore. Like in the old days of TV, print and radio, you just filled those [channels]. Now it’s every day you wake up with something new. So it’s a different kind of person who works at an agency now. You have to be comfortable with mess and chaos. I find it very exciting. I think I might be bored if it was like the old days. I like the new, trying different things and going where no one’s gone before. That’s the kind of person you have to be. And it’s not just in creative, the whole agency has to think that way. Every corner has to be looking forward.

I find that the more senior people are, the more they get stuck. They want to be stuck because they’re so good at what they’re good at. You have to be open to the new constantly. The new feels good. It’s not scary. Yeah, it is confusing, but you kind of find your way through it. It’s cloudy and foggy and then some beam of light comes through, you pull it in and, boom, you’ve got it. Yes, it’s sloppy and messy but again, you’ll never find yourself stuck in a block.

2. Don’t get fooled into thinking social media trends are fads

I think everybody knows this, but TikTok, Facebook Watch, Instagram [Reels], YouTube Shorts, Snapchat Spotlight, whatever Reddit and Pinterest’s [short video offerings] are called – these are not new fads. They are here to stay. Agencies need to do more. It’s not just taking video and sticking it on these platforms. [Each platform] has its own language, its own culture, its own assets and tools. Agencies are behind there. You’ve got to get on that. I can assure anybody out there that we are. All these platforms are part of an experience-forward approach that’s new, different and, again, exciting to me. It’s a whole new way to create if you look at it the right way. I think people still think it’s kind of a faddy thing like Vine was, but TikTok has surpassed YouTube in US viewership. People are really paying rapt attention. It’s here to stay.

I’m scouring the world to see who’s doing the coolest things, and not necessarily from an agency. Just like people, and kids, and bringing them in and doing workshops. We have contests. We are doing everything we can do to make people feel comfortable in this new world and play with it.

I'm reminded of how in 1947 when we did the first commercials, there was some guy in a suit in the showroom reading a script because they were used to radio. Then somebody realized, ’oh, we can show a horse in an ad like in a movie.’ Then the whole aperture opened and advertising became what it became. That’s kind of what we’re doing here. These newer platforms are constantly changing and evolving. They are messy platforms, so messy people are best suited for them.

3. Stop crying or we’re going to have to call the waambulence

Life has always been fucked up. History seems neater and cleaner because it already happened and we survived. But during those times it seemed equally bad. You’re here now. Live your life. Enjoy.

If you wait for things to get good, then you’re going to be old and you’re going to think, ‘oh, I waited and this is it.’ It is just humanity. It’s messy. We are a screwy species. Find an optimistic view and just ‘keep on keepin’ on.’ That line is in a lot of songs for a reason – Smokey Robinson, Curtis Mayfield, John Lennon... there’s a lot of wisdom in it. If you think back on memories, you mostly remember the good stuff and the bad stuff kind of fades away. Try and access that good part of human nature.

You can check out more of our 3 Actionable Insights series here, and don’t forget to sign up for The Drum’s daily US email here.

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