Back to Basics: Bill Backer

By Matt Van Hoven 

Bill Backer co-founded Backer & Spievogel. The South Carolina native spoke with The Wall Street Journal about how it sorta bothered him that his part of the country was rooted in old ways, and that focusing on the future helped his career.

On leaving home (for New York): “This is the place to be if you’re creative; it’s where it all happens.”


On goals and ideas: “At the start, Carl (Spievogel) and I had one goal: to return to a ‘classic agency’ where top management works at a client’s business, not their own. Our personal goals? To have some fun, and make some money.”

You have to admire Backer’s simple honesty. Not that he was simple, but he speaks in no uncertain terms that New York is the future, and making money is what this business is about &#151 but the way to do it is by focusing on the work. Well, that was his way, at least.

On advertising and sales: “Advertising is a substitute for a salesperson, so it should likable. You wouldn’t buy from a salesperson who’s rude, arrogant, insulting would you? … Over the long term, consumers like to do business with people they like, and they resond to advertising created by people who like people.”

Extrapolate this idea for whatever aspect of the business you’re involved with.

On hiring and firing: “We want decent people with talent who make life exciting when they come in all revved up in the morning; self-starters who don’t need prodding.”

On invisible advertising:
“To beat clutter, you need advertising that isn’t part of the din, advertising that works harder on the third exposure than the first.”

Image: Backer is on the far right.

More: “Back to Basics: Wisdom From Ron Anderson