A love letter to advertising

Somewhere along the line, advertising became a dirty word, and trying to bridge a relationship on behalf of a brand was suddenly unacceptable and immoral, says the CEO of Havas Creative US.

At 25, I got off the train—a wet-behind-the-ears kid from Boston—at Grand Central Station (Yankees territory), thinking, "What the f*** do I do now?" It was there that you found me. I stepped out of the station and you had this glow. I could feel you warm my skin up in Times Square. You were bright and beautiful and I was smitten, ad world.

I knew I wanted to be in advertising as early as 16. I chose it because I believe it’s the world’s greatest industry—plus I didn’t have to wear a tie. I love it, I truly do. Do people fall in love with accounting? I’m not sure. Do they fall in love with teaching? Maybe.

As a kid who had started various small businesses to make cash in the summer, I loved the call and response of marketing, and I ended up jumping right in. As I progressed in my career, advertising brought me to the epicenter of all of the things that Americans adore, and I was on my way to holding the key to make people fall deeper and deeper in love. I embarked on a constant journey to find new ways to connect brands and people with new forms of creativity brought to life on modern, of-the-moment platforms. I sought to break tradition from day one. 

I’m 25 years in the business this year; and somewhere along the line, advertising became a dirty word. The very idea of anyone trying to bridge a relationship on behalf of a brand was suddenly unacceptable and immoral. The Advertising Haters Club became a thing. Don’t believe me? Check your facts by reading transcripts from every major advertising or marketing conference over the past 18-months. 

The truth? It’s not perfect. The industry does need to confront reality—agencies, brand marketers, ad tech, publishers. Everyone. I'm not the loudest CEO in the market, on stage or in media, because I would rather build things than talk about them. And build we have. Try new things; see what works and what doesn't. Have some huge wins and experience some failures. Do it for the love of the game. 

I still wake up every day with the same feeling I did on my first day in the business. I’m proud of what I do. I love being at the center of creativity and commerce, at the crux of where people decide how to enhance their lives with brands and where loyalty exists beyond reason. At every stage of my career, I have been asked to transform a company to what’s next and in some small way drive the agenda of an industry. From traditional in 1996 to digital in 2006 to mobile in 2016 and culture in 2017, it's a story through very different decades.

We are in a state of perpetual transformation; and to this very day, I see folks resisting what’s next. I actually root for other agencies to change and transform as I celebrate their innovative work (sometimes enviously). I watch them take risks on technology and capabilities that others sometimes don't accept. Rooting for the competition doesn't mean I don’t try to better them; it means that I cheer on this industry as a whole because I love it. 

Yeah, sometimes I get pissed off. Sometimes the business and I fight and say things we don’t mean, but making up is always better than living in tension and disarray. I’ve decided to own the evolution instead of getting crushed by the waves.

Advertising, I will never let you be a dirty word. If The Rock can believe in you, I can too; and I’ll love you unconditionally—waking up with the same excitement as that very first day that I walked out of Grand Central Station.

Paul Marobella is Chairman and CEO Havas Creative, U.S.

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