Thursday, January 12, 2012


Headline:  Steve Hayden is named AAAA Leader of the Year.

That's a rough facsimile of the invitation my partner Dennis Lim and I produced in 1994. My apologies for not finding the original piece but I'm not much of a rat packer. I throw stuff out. Even the good stuff. But this gives you a good idea how the invite looked. 

It also gives you a good idea about Steve.

You see we had presented a ton of concepts, but Steve would have none of them. He wanted to take the piss out of all this false pomp and circumstance. He literally told us to make the invitation more self-deprecating. I'm sure we had something even bluer, but this was after all an honorary banquet not a Friar's Roast.

In any case, it shows Steve's humility. And his grace. None of which I deserved, because in 1994 I was by all accounts (and most account executives) a hotheaded colossal asshole.

Let me back up a little. I was hired to work at BBDO West by the new Creative Director David Lubars. It was the first and only time I was actively recruited. Weirdly however, BBDO West was also being led by Creative Director Steve Hayden. I, nor anyone else on the staff, understood why we had two Creative Directors both of whom were also the agency president. As someone who was never skilled in the art of kissing ass, you can imagine how confused this left me. 

I only know that Lubars hired me. But Hayden was stuck with me. 

Normally a situation like that leads to friction. But Steve was far too professional to be bothered by any of that. Instead he talked me down from a career ledge and helped me get through one of the toughest assignments I've ever faced in advertising -- a 10-page Apple insert to run in the Wall Street Journal. 

To this day I still get shivers thinking about all the technical gobbledygook that had to be sorted through and turned into proper English. Particularly since I was such a noob when it came to software/hardware/computer architecture, and such.

But Steve, acting as professor and Creative Director helped me plough through. And in doing so taught me an invaluable lesson about demystifying technology. And being a better writer. It's never about being fancy. Or clever. Or even funny (as this post amply demonstrates). Good writing is about being clear.

So with Steve retiring and all those he influenced coming out of the woodwork to pay him the appropriate homage, let me be perfectly clear.

Thanks Steve.

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