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7 Legends Talking

This year’s Advertising Hall of Fame honorees answer our off-center questions—and reveal the real people behind the icons.
  • April 15 2011

Consider this their entrance interview. They’ve spent their careers racking up achievements and winning accolades. Now they stand at the threshold to the Advertising Hall of Fame. But before they step in, we wanted to get a picture of what makes them tick. So we got them to introspect. Given the incredible smarts and creativity of the Advertising Hall of Fame’s 2011 honorees, we knew their answers would give us great insight. After all, look at their credentials: David Abbott, retired chairman and creative director, Abbott Mead Vickers Group; Eduardo Caballero, founder, Caballero Radio & Television; Jack Connors Jr., founding partner and chairman emeritus, Hill Holliday Connors Cosmopulos; Laurel Cutler, advertising/marketing trailblazer; Earl G. Graves Sr., chairman, founder & publisher, Black Enterprise (note: Graves was not available to participate in our questionnaire); Herb Kelleher, founder and chairman emeritus, Southwest Airlines; Jack Smith, former group president, deputy chief creative of. cer worldwide, Leo Burnett; Bill Cosby, legendary entertainer (and pitch man); and General Motors. “The careers and life stories of our honorees are remarkable; they represent the very best of our great industry and what our industry contributes to American society, commerce, and culture,” notes James Edmund Datri, president and CEO of the American Advertising Federation (which administers the Advertising Hall of Fame). Following, the newest Advertising Hall of Fame honorees tell us about who they really are. THE HONOREES David Abbot Retired Chairman and Creative Director, Abbott Mead Vickers Group Abbott’s 40-year career took off in 1969 when he rose to managing director of DDB London. Ten years later, he partnered with Peter Mead and Adrian Vickers— eventually owning the agency that became the largest agency group in the U.K. Eduardo Caballero Founder, Caballero Radio & Television Arriving in America from Cuba in 1961 with just one peso, Caballero rose to found Spanish National Radio, repping some 200 Spanish radio stations. By 1998, he launched MásMúsica TeVe, a Spanish television music video and entertainment network. Jack Connors Jr. Founding Partner and Chairman Emeritus, Hill Holliday Connors Cosmopulos Founded in 1968, Connors’ firm serves as a full service marketing communications company and is considered to be one of the top 20 advertising firms in the U.S. today. Laurel Cutler Multi-Career Renaissance Woman Cutler has been a director at Foote, Cone & Belding, vice chairman at FCB/Leber Katz Partners, and senior vice president, creative director, and director of McCann Erickson. In 1988, she began a three-year stint as a corporate officer for Chrysler. Earl G. Graves Sr. Chairman, Founder & Publisher, Black Enterprise Graves went from being chairman and CEO of Pepsi-Cola of Washington, D.C., L.P.—the company’s largest minority-controlled franchise in the U.S.—to founding Black Enterprise, the magazine for black entrepreneurs. Herb Kelleher Founder & Chairman Emeritus, Southwest Airlines Kelleher founded Southwest Airlines—an intrastate carrier—in 1971. Eventually, the company went national and today regularly makes Fortune’s list of Most Admired Corporations in America. Jack Smith Former Group President, Deputy Chief Creative Officer Worldwide, Leo Burnett Smith rates as one of the ad industry’s greatest jingle composers. Today he runs his own shop, Jack Smith Creative Services, out of Missouri. Q. What’s your daily routine like? Kelleher: I come to the office, take the assignments I’m given, try to perform them to the best of my ability, to the extent that anyone asks for counsel. r Abbott: I still have more or less the same routine that I had when I had a job. I get into my office at around 9:15. I stay there usually till about 6 o’clock, when I walk home. I could have fooled my wife into thinking I haven’t retired. Last year I had my first novel published: The Upright Piano Player. It will be published in America on June 7th. Caballero: I open my eyes and find out I’m alive. Then I hope I’ll be able to convince someone who might be doing wrong to do right. Connors: I go to morning mass—usually at Boston College, walk for an hour, talk to one of my four kids, then I usually go to a meeting for some of the charitable activities—I’m very involved with hospital work, and I’ve also built a camp for inner city kids. Not a day goes by when we don’t try to help somebody— either with a health issue or an educational issue or a social issue or whatever. My life is no different; it’s just that I’m painting on a different canvas now. Cutler: Lots of reading, lots of exercise, lots of music. Smith: I have a one-man advertising agency here in Columbia, Missouri. I might be working on commercials for the University of Missouri. Right now I’m producing a celebrity golf tournament for a children’s hospital called Coaches for Kids. And during the summer, I might sneak out and play a little golf. Q. What’s your greatest unknown talent? Connors: I guess my greatest unknown talent was that even though I started out as a salesman, I turned into a half-decent business man. Also, I’ve got a great hook shot. Abbott: I’m not a bad whistler. Caballero: My education: I was a lawyer in Cuba. And despite the fact that I couldn’t speak one word of English when I came here, what I had in my brain, no one could take from me. Cutler: I can put on lipstick without looking. When I was a little girl a long time ago—I’m 84 years old—my mother used to get The Ladies’ Home Journal, and they used to give tips for teens in the back pages. And the tip one day was, “The secret of confidence for a young person is finding something you can do that others can’t do. And I went through my entire repertoire—I was 12—and I found out the one thing I can do that other people can’t do was put on lipstick without looking so it became the source of my confidence. There are other things that I discovered over time that I could do very well. But this was the key that unlocked it. Kelleher: Being a strategist. Smith: Well, it’s not golf. Q. What was your greatest achievement? Abbott: Being able to move into management without leaving the creative floor. Caballero: To convince some advertisers to become involved with the Spanish market, particularly Spanish radio back when they weren’t interested in radio at all. Connors: Helping to build something that has endured. Cutler: Raising three people I like as well as love—my three children. Kelleher: Achieving unparalleled job security for the employees of Southwest Airlines by keeping the company profitable for an unprecedented 38 consecutive years and never having a single furlough of an employee. Smith: Growing people in my group so they could go on and become successful. Q. Who was your mentor? Abbott: Bob Levinson: He was a great copywriter and a great ad-maker. When I was sent to DDB to be indoctrinated in 1966, I was in his group and he looked at my copy and I learned a lot from him. Caballero: There was a gentleman by the name of Richard Taton—he was the owner of a few Spanish radio stations and a couple of television stations. Connors: Bill Bernbach. Cutler: Margot Sherman, who was the first Matrix Award winner for advertising. She was an inspiringly able creative director and advertising person. And she was a lady to her fingertips and a marvelous, generous human being and a good wife and mother. Kelleher: Arthur Vanderbilt—the Dean of N.Y.U. Law School, the chairman of the board of Wesleyan University, and at that time the youngest president of the American Bar Association, and reformer of the code of military justice. And he did all these things while he was the Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court. And that brought home to me: Maybe you can multitask some. Smith: Creative Director Dick Stanwood. Dick taught me that once you get into management, your job is to grow others into management, not to beat them over the head and prove you’re still king. Q. What do you miss most about your business? Abbott: The young people. I used to see the whole creative department on a daily basis, and I loved their youth and enthusiasm and willingness to work long, long hours while they tried to get it right. Connors: I miss working/playing with the wonderfully creative people. I don’t have any creative talent, but I just enjoyed being with people who did. Cutler: Some of my clients and colleagues. I have very close relationships with both. Kelleher: The day-to-day involvement of airline operations—working directly with the operating department, like flight operations, maintenance… It really fascinated me. Smith: The inspiration you get from the people around you. Q. If you could put mementos from your career into a time capsule, what would you drop in there? Abbott: Torn up airline tickets to symbolize all the vacations I’ve had to cancel in my 40 years; a roll of canned laughter to remind people that working in advertising was always a lot of fun; one of my ads—there’s one for Chivas I like a lot; and a pen and layout pad, to remind people that everything wasn’t always done on computers. Connors: The check I wrote for $1,500 to become a 25 percent owner in Hill Holliday; the invitation to meet the Queen of England in 1976 on the 200th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence; and I’d throw in a few wonderful ads done over the years. Cutler: The Dodge Viper (which happened during my time at Chrysler but wasn’t my achievement). The company didn’t know it could build a worldclass car, but once they did, they knew they could do it again. The Viper transformed the company. Kelleher: Cigarettes (I smoke a lot); Wild Turkey bourbon (my favorite); and finally a model of the first airplane that joined Southwest Airlines. Smith: The sheet music for a song I co-wrote called “Mother Country” for United Airlines—that commercial ran a long time; my old Wurlitzer piano. Q. Q. What inspires you? Abbott: I love when an ad comes together. When you know it’s right on every front, both strategically and in execution. I think that you get the kind of satisfaction that I’m told mathematicians get when a solution has elegance. Caballero: The wrong perception a lot of people had about what the Hispanic market was going to be in this country. Connors: Making a difference. Cutler: Courage. Smith: Music, films, smart stuff. What I look at now more than anything is where a commercial comes from—its insight and strategy. What it’s built on. Q. What trend in your industry do you think won’t last? Abbott: We’re going through a period in the UK where they’re raising the amount of time allowed for advertisements on TV. So we’re going from 12 minutes to maybe 15 or 16. I think it’s counterproductive. It just creates great annoyance with the audience and they’ll switch channels. Connors: Direct mail is probably in its last season. Cutler: Branding won’t last. Our tricks are becoming much too familiar to our audience. Kelleher: I frankly wonder how far you can push these ancillary fees—the unbundling, so to speak. I’d suggest including those fees in the cost of the journey— telling everyone up front what they’re paying. Smith: What happens with trends is that they evolve. And the trend you dinged might evolve someday to be a smash. Q. Favorite trend you’ve seen in your industry? Abbott: I like the trend of advertising becoming more green, more socially minded. I like the movement for social responsibility. Connors: The ability to learn more, and more, and more about more people and more products and services. I love data. Kelleher: One of the things that stands out in my mind has been the industry’s progress in becoming more fuel efficient in the last 20 to 25 years. With new airplanes and new engines, we’ve cut our fuel consumption by about 70 percent. Smith: The biggest trend was when creative came out of the closet in the early to mid ’60s. That got me into the business. It made me realize, “That’s what I want to do.” Q. What traits do you dislike about yourself? Caballero: It’s very difficult to convince me about something I don’t believe in. Abbott: I care too much about appearances. I’m the kind of person who has to restrain himself from adjusting a picture in somebody else’s house. Cutler: Bossiness. Kelleher: Being a procrastinator. And also an absent-mindedness about things: I constantly misplace my car, my keys… Smith: I don’t speak up enough in meetings. Q. What was your favorite perk? Cutler: Having a car and driver— it was certainly the privilege I loved the most. It was much more important to have the driver than the car. I mean, I would take a Bug with a driver rather than a Rolls without one. Abbott: Being able to change my car quite frequently. Caballero: Getting to know socially some of those people that I started to know business-wise. Connors: By virtue of being the CEO or the president or founder or whatever, I could get into a lot of places. A lot of it had to do with the business card. Kelleher: We don’t have perks at Southwest Airlines. The only perk that I’ve had was my assigned parking space. Smith: Creative lunches. Many, many years ago, you could get a lunch and you could write it off—you were doing work. Those days are gone forever. Q. What three words would you use to describe yourself? Abbott: Tall, white-haired, aged. Caballero: Will-to-succeed. Connors: Hard-working, charitable, loves-life. Cutler: Intuitive. Daring. Gutsy. Kelleher: Fun-loving, humble. Smith: Production houses called me, “The Velvet Hammer” because I was quiet, but also firm and stubborn. Q. What’s your secret to success? Abbott: I wanted to be a good copywriter— so I committed to it. And I had a great deal of fun doing it. Caballero: Believing I could succeed; not taking no for an answer. Connors: Ours was a team success—I just happen to have the fancy title. Also, I think we kind of had fun just about every day, except for a few exceptions. Cutler: Listening. Kelleher: An eye for bringing on talent. Smith: Enjoying what I do. Never for a minute—even in a crisis—did I hate what I was doing. Also, competitiveness: I don’t always show it outwardly, but I really hate to lose. Q. Which living person do you admire most and why? Abbott: My wife—I’ve been married to her for nearly 50 years. She’s a good, loving person and she’s put up with me all this time. Caballero: President George H. W. Bush: His sense of humor is absolutely incredible. I had the fortune to meet with him more than once, and I couldn’t believe someone who achieved the honor of becoming president of the United States would have such a sense of humor. Connors: Dr. Paul Farmer, head of Partners in Health. He’s devoted his entire life to global health and bringing the enormous discoveries of medicine to the poorest people in the world at the lowest possible prices. Cutler: Stephen Sondheim. He’s brilliant. I would love to be able to do what he does—to have had his career. Q. So you’ve just won entry into the Advertising Hall of Fame: What’s next? Abbott: I’ve already been inducted into two halls of fame. The next one will be my memorial service. Caballero: To continue my pursuit of convincing people that they have to understand that the United States is changing, and that they have to change accordingly. Connors: Well my first reaction is to remind everybody that publicity is just like poison: It only kills you if you swallow it. Kelleher: I’m just astonished and overwhelmed to get into the Advertising Hall of fame. It’s one of the greatest honors I’ve ever had.

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