Jerry Cronin On The Spot

You won’t catch Jerry Cronin, partner and co-creative director of MMB, eating at McDonald’s. After two years of project work for Subway, the Boston independent was awarded the $300 million account in July. Cronin, 47, began as a writer at Quinn & Johnson, Boston, and spent 12 years at Wieden + Kennedy, where he created award-winning ads for ESPN (“This is SportsCenter”), Nike (“Meat”) and Miller (“High Life man”). Now Cronin, who joined the 4-year-old shop in February after a few years in Atlanta, is working to create “a defining campaign” for the chain-—and the agency. —

Q: How does it feel to wrestle Subway out of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners? Do you feel vindicated?

A: I don’t know if we feel vindicated … I hate to say we feel good about wrestling the account from them. I’m happy our billings are more.

As the lead agency, can you relax now, or will you always be looking over your shoulder?

I think we can relax for a couple of weeks and then start looking over our shoulder

You’ve been at MMB for seven months. What changes have you made?

I think we’re all having a lot of fun and ing hard. I’ve tried to help minimize the amount of meetings and discussions and let people keep the proceedings moving along. Keep the assembly line flowing.

What’s been your biggest challenge at MMB?

Getting into pitches and not having a defining campaign yet—getting a chance to do that.

Do you think you could do that defining campaign for Subway?

Honestly, our best chance is to do something really great for Subway. It’s a big national brand. [If we] do something great for Subway, I think we’ll really stand out.

How long can Subway successfully use Jared Fogle as a spokesman?

I think Subway could use him indefinitely as long as they don’t use him too much. I think 24/7, he might burn out a little. Use him judiciously and in new and different ways, and you could use him for a long time. Every time he’s in an ad sales jump, so try to keep him healthy for a long time.

How does working in New England compare to the other markets you have worked in, like Atlanta and Portland?

Maybe it’s because we’re in the South End … we feel a little isolated from other agencies. Me and Jamie Mambro [co-creative director] and Fred Bertino [president, co-creative director] are older and not doing the bar scene. We feel a little removed from the ad community. Boston was pretty insular in the past, but now that a lot of the agencies are going into the deep end and going after national accounts, it’s raised the credibility of the whole town.

What inspired you to get into advertising?

I was a sheetrocker, but I’d always studied creative writing. I had a roommate who was an art director, and she always had the layouts around the apartment. After about six months I asked her what all the squiggly stuff was, and she said, ‘Those are the words.’ I said, ‘Do they pay someone to write those words?’ She loaned me some ad awards books, and I wrote fake ads. I drew my own illustrations. Everyone looked like eggs. Looking back, I never would have gotten hired with that book in today’s market.

What was it like being a sheetrocker?

It was a tough time to find a job. Doing sheetrock, drinking beer and watching a lot of baseball … in hindsight, it was a pretty great job. In the long range, it wasn’t going to be the ideal career move.

What was the most important lesson you learned from the failure of BaylessCronin?

The fact that it’s not a good idea doing a lot of high-tech work when the market is going to blow up in three weeks. Live and learn.

What’s the smartest business decision you’ve ever made?

Going to Wieden. Because I had so many great opportunities, it was like a candy store for a greedy creative person. The way Dan [Wieden] and Dave [Kennedy] ran it, they gave you the chance to do great work. Once they hired you, they seemed to have enough confidence to just let you go. Plus, [Portland, Ore.] was such a fucking great city.

Who has influenced you most creatively?

People I worked with: Jamie Barrett, Bill Heater and Dan Wieden, of course. Bill because he’s a good writer and a good thinker. Jamie because he’s very driven and a hard worker. Dan is a great leader. He knew how to get the most out of people.

What’s the last ad that made you think, ‘I wish I had done that’?

The early Saturn stuff Goodby did is fantastic. The “Bacardi & Cola” ads [from davidandgoliath]. The Damien milk commercial [“Birthday”]. The Burger King stuff is fun as can be. Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim ads.

What is your dream assignment?

Honestly, having worked on Nike and ESPN and being a pathetic sports junkie, just to work on sports now and again. I’d love to work on a good and honest political campaign. And do a great job on Subway.

What is your biggest fear in life?

Getting hit by a bus. Having a meteor drop on my head. Becoming a tasteless old hack. Getting fatter. All of those.