Q’s & cabbing it with…Phil Dusenberry

In between the rehearsal for strategy's Agency of the Year event and the real deal, Phil Dusenberry is ushered into a cab destined for ROB TV.

In between the rehearsal for strategy’s Agency of the Year event and the real deal, Phil Dusenberry is ushered into a cab destined for ROB TV.

On the way downtown, the brains behind such campaigns as GE’s ‘We bring good things to life’ and Pepsi’s ‘New Generation’ asks about Canada – what we eat, whether we have suburban sprawl, our reactions over Iraq. Perhaps it is this natural curiosity that has enabled Dusenberry to uncover insights that produced such memorable advertising.

But as he tells the audience at the AOY event later: ‘Great work doesn’t come easy. It’s a bitch. It’s tough. It’s agony.’

The soft-spoken ad icon gives full credit to guys like GE’s Jack Welch, Pepsi’s Roger Enrico and FedEx’s Fred Smith, ‘merely because they gave us the freedom to knock the walls down. They pushed aside the bureaucratic dung heap – and had the good taste…to know great work when they saw it.’

The industry needs the likes of Welch now more than ever, he added, because ‘the rewards of courage can be spectacular…breakthrough, stop-you-in-your-tracks advertising.’

Here’s what else the legendary adman told strategy.

Why do you think great clients are so rare?

A lot of them are more interested in making their numbers than the long-term health of a brand. That’s why every company should have [a] chief brand manager – a person who really drives the brand, who is not interested in moving the shares up a 10th of a percentage point as much as keeping the brand’s imagery intact, and enhancing it.

You’ve had very long relationships with clients. That’s less common now. What’s the impact?

For agencies, long relationships give you an opportunity to fail and not be afraid you’re going to get fired. Back in 1984, we presented a campaign to Roger Enrico, and he practically threw us out of the office, he hated it so much. But Roger called us in the next day and directed us strategically. Out of that discussion came the next 20 years of advertising. The failure made us want to come back in and blow them away. And 99 out of 100 times, that’s exactly what we did.