Art Directors Club Prez Focuses On Ad Futures
The Art Directors Club -- which the ad industry relies on to nurture new and better creative work -- just named The Barbarian Group's Benjamin Palmer as its 58th president. (Despite losing its independence to Korea's Cheil Worldwide in late '09, TBG is known for its free-spirited, "digital-centric" creative work.) Already a few days into his three-year reign at the ADC, we wanted to learn more about Palmer, his professional views, and plans for the 91-year-old institution.
The ADC seems pretty proud of itself for appointing a "digital guy" as its new president. What does that say about the ADC, and the state of the ad business in general?
It says the ADC is with the times. The Internet is a mature medium that is now woven into all the work we do across the whole advertising industry. I don't think it's possible to do good work that doesn't end up on the Internet at some point. I work primarily in the digital space, but I'm just as invested in big culture-changing ideas as anyone has been since the beginning of our industry. Digital is just the new playground.
How has your experience to date prepared you for this role?
I'm an entrepreneur as well as a creative. I started my own business 10 years ago, so I've had a lot of experience growing and running a business, and understanding the balancing act between dollars and creative and company culture. A lot of the challenges are applicable to helping guide the ADC.
As newly appointed president of the ADC, what's Job 1?
Making membership even more meaningful. We want more members, and we want to do more year-round programming. The industry is thriving -- here in New York and globally -- and there is a lot we can share with each other! There are a lot of awards in this industry, and we have the hardest award to win, but that's not enough. ADC needs to be an amazing hub for the industry for inspiration and learning and socializing.
What's your second goal?
Global growth. Here in NYC, we have a really amazing gallery space, and there is always something interesting on the walls and there are great events, but our mission extends beyond that. The concerns of the club are things that concern the industry worldwide, and we can use the Web, global partnerships and events to make that happen.
What should the ultimate mission of the ADC be? Does it change with time?
The mission of the ADC is to connect, provoke and elevate. It's a pretty great articulation of what the club has been about since its inception in 1920. On a smaller level, our goals change in response to the changes in the industry. ADC needs to be a follower and a leader at the same time, providing education and opportunities for what is coming next, making rock stars out of our Young Guns, and celebrating the industry's best work. We need to respond to the needs of our members.
Who (or what) represents the most overlooked change agent (or trend) affecting advertising, today?
It's got to be "the audience." The biggest difference between the industry now and 10 or 20 years ago is the degree of control our audience has on the success of our work. The balance of power has shifted in a way that is slow for the institution of advertising to react to or fully understand. It's happening, but it will take a while.
Could a banner ad ever achieve the same impact -- in terms of engagement, if not scale -- of the best TV ad?
Sure. I would probably not wager precisely on a banner ad, but some form of online ad can most certainly compete with the engagement, scale and quality of the best TV ad. Some of the best advertising we've seen in the last couple of years has been a hybrid of all of those things. Fairly normal without the other, but the integration makes it magic.
Which ad man (or women), agency, or brand most closely represents the future of effective advertising?
Conan O'Brien. He's basically killing it across all mediums right now.
Does the fresh talent exist to sustain a healthy industry, and either way, what needs to be done to secure such talent?
Absolutely. There are more ways to see, learn and get interested in advertising at a young age because of the Web. The great thing about the generation coming up is that nobody has to talk to them about traditional or nontraditional; they think it is all the same thing. And they're right.
You're a bit unkempt in the photo being circulated with news of your appointment. For the uninitiated, what does that say about you, the ADC, and, if you would, the state of menswear and grooming?
You'll thank me for my tall hair when you're trying to find me in the crowd at the ADC!