In the SpotlightMay 18th, 2011
Eric Schlakman, Associate Creative Director at Tribal DDB New York, on ending childhood poverty, mastering interpretive dance routines, and fabricating one-sentence bios.
If you had to switch roles with someone in the agency, what position would you take and why?
Summer intern. When I was an intern, I loved soaking up everything I could from everybody I encountered. And I was determined to win an award and change the world with every brief, no matter how big or small the assignment was. In my opinion, if you don’t maintain that naïveté and optimism, then you can’t possibly produce good work. Plus, summer interns get the rest of the year off to go party at college. Not too shabby.
What qualities do you look for in a prospective employee?
Somebody who’s interested and interesting. You have to be willing to learn and explore, but also try to bring value to every discussion. That combo is key. Milton Glaser once said, “The real issue is not talent as an independent element, but talent in relationship to will, desire, and persistence. Talent without these things vanishes, and even modest talent with those characteristics grows.” You also need to love the New York Mets enough to talk about them constantly, but not so much that you feel bad when giving me your season tickets for free.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a new employee?
Never order burritos when working late. Bad situation all around.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I expose myself to everything. I don’t mean that I press my naked body against my office window (though I’m not saying I haven’t done that, either), but rather that looking in different, unusual, uncommon places for inspiration always sparks new ideas. The best ideas come from the strangest places. I take classes at MoMA, write for an irreverent ecard site, and constantly scour the Web. By learning, practicing, and observing, I’m able to combine highbrow, lowbrow, and unibrow culture into innovative advertising concepts.
What advertisement do you wish you made?
The Aaron Burr “Got Milk” ad, because it changed the way we look at a product that’s been around forever, just by being honest about its benefits and telling an interesting story. Any of the Economist print and outdoor ads, because they’re insightful, concise, witty and topical—all qualities that I hope my writing conveys. And the Grande Reportagem “Maps” campaign, because it’s fucking brilliant.
Can you relate to Don Draper at all?
Don lived in Westchester, works on Madison Avenue, and now lives on the corner of Waverly Place and Sixth Avenue. All of those things are true about me, too. Though I usually wait until noon to start drinking.
What publication best describes you?
A combination of Wired and Mad magazines. Part geek, part somebody who finds joy in simple ideas like a fold-in page.
What non-advertising-related job best prepared you for your current role?
Bartending. It’s very similar to advertising in many ways. You have to listen and offer guidance to your clients, develop interesting promotions worth spreading, and find time to enjoy Happy Hour.
What current industry-related trend do you hope gains momentum?
Transmedia storytelling. The notion of participating in a program or event or pretty much anything through multiple platforms in real time is where it’s at (did I just set the record for most ad terms in one sentence?). For example, Despicable Me and Best Buy let people download an app that synced with the movie, giving subtitles during the end credits for the Minions’ gibberish live on their iPhones. Totally awesome. In the hopefully not-so-distant future, I’d love to watch Top Chef and have my phone know that’s what I’m doing, then have it send me contestants’ recipes as their dishes are being presented (perhaps with behind-the-scenes comments from judges, a live chat to discuss the recipes, and a Google Maps integration to show me where I can buy the ingredients). Then I can start looking for a phone that cooks for me.
Eric Schlakman is Associate Creative Director at Tribal DDB New York.