FCB’s Creative Chief Sets Out to Establish a More Collaborative Culture

Ari Halper is 'remodeling' the agency


Current gig Chief creative officer, FCB New York

Previous gig Executive creative director, Grey New York

Age 46

Twitter @ferociousfoodie

Adweek: How is running creative at FCB New York different than working under Tor Myhren at Grey before he left for Apple? 

Halper: The true answer to your question is that I now only have time to check my email once a day. Where it really differs is in the new business plan: How can you change things from past agencies where you worked and challenge the status quo? This even comes down to remodeling the agency in terms of what the furniture will look like and where people will sit on each pitch.

Why did you decide to leave Grey in February?

I had been doing the [executive creative director] thing for some time and getting an itch to take on more responsibility … to affect my own destiny on things like winning business and evolving culture. Second, FCB itself was very interesting in that I didn't want a perfect agency … and the people [chief strategy officer Deb Freeman, CEO Karyn Rockwell, global CCO Susan Credle and global CEO Carter Murray] are also very exciting.

What do you see changing at FCB under the new leadership?

It's a more collaborative network than I've ever seen. We have a saying: "Creative isn't a department, it's a culture." That means creative is everyone's job at the end of the day, because it's the product we sell and we don't want to leave that problem to creatives alone to solve. We've also done a number of small things that I think make a huge difference with people. One example is one-on-one conversations with me where people can tell me anything: gripes, thoughts, secrets, you name it. I've also created something I call Food, Conversation and Beverages (FCB) where I make it a point to go to lunch with everyone.

How would you describe your personal leadership style?

I try to keep things casual: If you're not laughing, you're crying. I also like to be very visceral and let people know how I feel by coming down and telling them right after the meeting. Too often everyone is so measured and controlled …but honesty is definitely the best policy. Plus, I'm really bad at lying.

Which current industry trends do you think will hold?

The concept of the consumer being in the driver's seat is going to grow exponentially as they engage with brands only on their own terms more and more. Advertising needs to be a welcome guest rather than an intrusive one—almost a sought-after guest. For example, I'm probably never going to purchase Always. But when I saw "Like a Girl," it affected me in a profound way.

What's one fact about yourself that people would be interested in knowing?

I went on 50 interviews all up and down the East Coast before I got my first job. I started in Boston and had meetings all the way down to Atlanta and Florida. After Florida, I'd planned to fly to Minneapolis and California before finding an entirely new line of work, but fortunately I got a call from D'Arcy [Masius Benton & Bowles] during a stop in Virginia Beach. I sold everything, got myself a rent-controlled apartment, and started my first real job as a junior copywriter.

This story first appeared in the May 9, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.

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