Chuck McBride On The Spot

Headshot of Adweek Staff

It’s a busy Monday morning, and Chuck McBride, cd of TBWA\Chiat\Day North America, is surrounded by Adidas—work, tennis shoes and the bright yellow and black windbreaker he’s wearing. It’s the San Francisco office’s flagship account, among a list of clients such as Starz!, Fox Sports Network and Ray-Ban, which the agency won in May. The 42-year-old former Wieden + Kennedy and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners alum, probably most famous for his work on Nike and Levi’s, and the classic Got Milk? “Aaron Burr” spot, discusses his new creative for and what it’s like to work with Lee Clow.

Q: What’s coming up on Adidas?

A: It’s really just hopefully more of what we’ve started with basketball. Our focus is that we get football [soccer] globally, in the sense that it’s the most popular sport in the world. To have some fun with that. We’ve done some great stuff through 180 for the World Cup. There is great momentum on football from the events going on in Europe. It’s a big deal; Adidas is going to be an ongoing concern with “Impossible is Nothing”—just to keep on surprising people and making it relevant.

How important was the Ray-Ban win to the agency?

It makes us the smallest global agency in the world. With Adidas and Ray-Ban and Ask, by nature of the Internet, it’s a global brand. It has the potential to have global implications when you look at the work. Three brands that play in a global space … the win is huge. … I own a pair of Ray-Bans. I think it matches our personality really well.

How would you describe that personality?

We try to have fun. There is a joy de vivre.

Do you feel isolated in San Francisco?

Yeah, a little bit, until it comes to the time of the award shows, and then I feel really good. Maybe isolation has its benefits.

I know you are influenced by film more than writing. Is there any film that has inspired you lately?

The last film I saw was Thank You for Smoking. What I loved about it was the ludicrous nature. This guy’s out there promoting smoking, and everybody knows it’s bad for you, so how could you ever promote it? It was like the “Truth” campaign, done for film.

Are you going to do more directing in 2006?

I’d love to. I just have to find the time and opportunity. I would love to do some more music videos, and get a band as a brand. And use the resources we have and do the same thing that we do for brands for groups.

What’s the latest music video you did?

Dave Matthews Band. I did a ton of treatments, but I never got one approved yet! It’s one of those industries [where] there are a lot of good people who form a tight-knit group. Breaking into that group is difficult.

On, is the work you are doing now challenging the competition, and how?

I think in the beginning it was about making sure people understood what it is. What people do know is, somewhere along the line will come something that’s better. Eventually, technology is replaced by new technology. Our thinking was, if that’s the only piece of leverage, what we need to be doing is saying, “Well, here’s the new thing.” They have this thing called Binoculars, and I’m hooked. You can preview the Web site before you go there. … We are trying to … move that to a place where it becomes iconic and the idea becomes more simple. It will be competitive in the sense that they may have built a better mousetrap. Otherwise, it’s all BS. The competition is so good, you can’t go at it from a philosophical standpoint.

Tell me about working with Lee Clow. What is the best and worst thing?

The best thing is Lee Clow, and the worst thing is Lee Clow. Lee always gives you great feedback and sees things; he grasps ideas very quickly and shares with you his thoughts. But at the same time, it’s one of those things where … we’re able to be ourselves and do things we are capable of doing. Lee has such a strong view of the world. … It’s hard to argue with him. It’s like, “I really want his feedback, but he’s probably going to change it.” But you always have to do it. The guy is a legend, so it’s always a thrill.

Name one person you’re dying to work with.

I haven’t worked with [Jonathan] Glazer. Directors, really good creative directors, other art directors. I am dying to work with another really talented person. There are plenty.

What are three words others use to describe you?

One of the Nike clients told me honestly, “Difficult but brilliant.”

Three words you would use to describe yourself?

Passionate, dedicated and precise.

What’s the last ad that made you think, “I wish I’d done that”?

I don’t remember the brand, but the one I liked the most was a bunch of handyman guys raising their hands, realizing they could not do it. I thought it was a brave piece of work because it didn’t show people in the store buying something from a happy salesperson. It showed people failing. And admitting it, saying, “I need a little help.” Great work is when it’s very truthful. Typically, they show someone in an apron, helping someone pick out the right lumber. The last time I was in one of those stores and someone even talked to me was nil.