Special Report : Brian Harrod: ‘Hellohowareyouwouldyoulikeacupofcoffee?’

.B11.hSpecial Report :Brian Harrod: 'Hellohowareyouwouldyoulikeacupofcoffee?'Alan Marr does a wonderfully simple though perfect impersonation of Brian Harrod.He strides up to you, smiles, shakes your hand, and in one flowing, uninterrupted sentence with a slight South African accent, looks you straight in the...


.hSpecial Report :Brian Harrod: ‘Hellohowareyouwouldyoulikeacupofcoffee?’

Alan Marr does a wonderfully simple though perfect impersonation of Brian Harrod.

He strides up to you, smiles, shakes your hand, and in one flowing, uninterrupted sentence with a slight South African accent, looks you straight in the eye and says, ‘Hellohowareyouwouldyoulikeacupofcoffee?’

I think the first time I met Brian he said those exact words to me. I heard him say those same words to a client in our boardroom this morning.

Brian Harrod hasn’t changed in the 15 or so years I’ve known him.

(I would add, however, that, lately, Brian has developed an after-hours version of his coffee invitation which is, ‘Hellohowareyouwouldyoulikeabeer?’)

He’s the same person, with the same energy, the same passion for the best, the same curiosity, the same sense of humor and the same extraordinary commitment to our business.

He is perpetual motion, unrelenting tenacity, an art director in the back seat of a cab (layout on the back of cab slip), an advertising innocent still excited by a good commercial, an advertising guru when asked his opinion (advice always modestly dispensed), and the player/manager who supports from the sidelines but never hesitates getting into the game when needed, coming home at the end of the day with the muddiest uniform of all.

Brian Harrod isn’t about one story or a collection of stories. He is himself the story that tells itself every day.

And, although the story is always consistent, the great magic is that a precious twist, effortlessly added to solve the issue at hand adds a little more, reveals something new you’ve never detected in the story before.

Brian talks about advertising the way Vince Lombardi talked about football.

When describing the ideal advertising person, he borrows Lombardi’s description of the ideal football player. ‘The best ones are the ones smart enough to know the game, but dumb enough to think it’s important.’

He talks admiringly of the piano player who never lets the crowd see him sweat, the unerring good taste of Paul Simon, the endurance of the long-distance runner and the realism of British filmmakers Loach, Leigh and Forsyth.

I don’t think Brian realizes that this isn’t a case of the man describing his heros, but a case of the heroes describing the man.

I’ve never seen Brian sweat, his taste never errs, his endurance is staggering, and he’s always had a firm hold on the reality of this business, never mistaking it for wanking.

Brian is not a man of the highway, the beaten path, or the well-lit boulevard. He looks for routes never explored before, finding his way through the alleyways with uncanny intuition.

I mean this to describe Brian’s approach to the business although one summer’s afternoon some years ago, I was a player in the living theatre of the Harrod philosophy.

We were leaving an editor’s suite in downtown Toronto on Queen Street West when we decided to take advantage of the beautiful day and walk back to the agency.

Brian suggested he could get us back to Bloor Street without walking/crossing a main road.

We set off through alleys and parking lots, even climbing over a couple of fences, and, as we picked our way through this impromptu steeplechase, I was struck by the metaphor.

Here was Brian, looking for a creative solution along the road less travelled, the way I’d seen him do so many times with a magic marker.

We made it back according to the rules, although there was one moment when, with high walls around us and our only option being a green door in front of us, Brian pulled on the handle and entering through it, we found ourselves in the kitchen of the Mt. Sinai hospital.

Without skipping a beat, Brian walked through the kitchen looking for the exit to the lobby and the next parking lot, greeting the kitchen staff with a broad smile.

I wasn’t sure what it was he said, but they smiled back. It was probably ‘Hellohowareyouwouldyoulikeacupofcoffee?’

We’re friends, we’re creative partners, we’re business partners. I know Brian the way the kite knows the breeze, salt knows pepper, E.T. knows home.

And I know only the words of the rabbi’s son from Minnesota would perform the adequate blessing I wish for him. I know it’s the blessing he would want:

‘May your hands always be busy, may your feet always be swift, and may you stay forever young.’