Jeff Odiorne On The Spot

Odiorne, 39, a second-generation ad veteran, ran his own agency, Odiorne, Wilde, Narraway & Partners, in San Francisco for 10 years. In 2003, he left the shop, which was recast as See:. After some time off, Odiorne, a copywriter who got his start in Rochester, N.Y., before moving west to work for Chiat\Day, Goldberg Moser O’Neill and Publicis & Hal Riney, has re-entered the business with the agency/production hybrid Phasmatrope in Philadelphia with his brother Peter and former OWN&P partner Michael Wilde. Their Philadelphia Eagles work recently won top honors at the Philadelphia ADDYs. What is it like working with your brother, Peter, as co-directors?

We laugh like hyenas and fight like pit bulls. I’m six years older than Peter. So there is a nice tension between a younger brother who’s got the world to prove and the older brother who would just like to mellow out a little bit.

Last summer you bid and won a two-week stint working out with Ray Lewis as a donation to his charity foundation. Would you ever work out with Lewis again?

We had shot Ray Lewis a number of times … for EA Sports and for Reebok. We were invited to his celebrity auction, and I went up to him right after the auction and said, ‘If you were to put an item on there where I could work out with you for two weeks, I promise it will go for a decent number.’ So he did as a favor. Then I ended up getting in a bidding war with some lawyer from Baltimore. At the end, he gave us both the opportunity to work out with him for two weeks.

What was that like?

My stint lasted all of three days. I ended up, I am not shamed to admit, way over my head. Basically worked out with him for three days, and I found myself on the fourth day not feeling very well and cancelled. It turns out I had total muscle failure … to the point that I ended up with kidney failure, and I ended up in the hospital—four weeks in intensive care, and two weeks in the regular part. Everyone should have one life-changing moment—I’m afraid that during the course of my life, I have had about five.

In 2002, you talked about Peterpandemonium, brands that connect with consumers by appealing to their recollections of childhood. Do you think that trend is still alive?

Oh, absolutely. The concept is finding a youthfulness either in the resurgence of old brands or the production of new brands for a generation that does not want to let go of its chronology, so to speak. It is an easy one for me. Even though I am on the eve of 40, my mind is still stuck at 23. So anything that can keep me in the dreamworld is interesting to me. It’s like a brand fountain of youth.

How did you get into advertising?

My first job was Hutchins/Young & Rubicam in Rochester, N.Y. I had put my book together in my parents’ basement. I did not go to ad school. My father was a creative director at N.W. Ayer on DeBeers for many years. He actually tried to convince me not to go into the business … but ultimately he introduced me to some people and told me what it took.

How do you get past a creative block?

It usually happens in the middle of the night. Ridiculous as it sounds, I find inspiration in REM sleep. I keep a pad by the bed. I don’t go to a movie, turn to creative books. I go into deep REM sleep.

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

Leaving OWN&P. I had lost my craft to running a business that had 80 employees in two countries. The opportunity to go back to my roots in the creative process was the smartest thing I ever did. Tied only to starting OWN&P.

What about the dumbest business decision?

I think I have rectified it. It was allowing stupid politics to come between myself and Michael Wilde, my former partner. We rectified that by being partners in this new company. He is a perfect fit for what we are trying to do—commercial entertainment.

Name the last ad you saw that made you say, “I wish I’d done that.”

It’s a Dairy Queen spot, I think it’s out of Grey, which is almost heresy to say, but that group within Grey is doing brilliant work. The woman is hooked up to electrodes and told not to touch the frappuccino. She eventually grabs it full-on … I think it’s very funny.

What’s the last book you read?

(Laughing) Catcher in the Rye in ninth grade.

No, you’re 40 years old and that’s the last book you read? I don’t think so.

Swear to God. Ninth grade. It’s a great book.

Movie you saw?

Million Dollar Baby … brilliant. What are the two biggest movies to hit Hollywood in the last two years? Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby. I think it is the perfect parallel for what could be done in advertising. There’s a guy that was typecast Clint, a Western guy, for decades. And in his 70’s he comes up with two of the freshest movies Hollywood has seen in the last decade. Brilliant.

CD/music you bought?

The new U2 CD. Boring. But also Eminem. I don’t consider myself ultra culturally hip like a lot of the black beret-wearing creatives with the ponytail. I am the average Joe.

Three words others would use to describe you?

Expletive, expletive, expletive. People believe that I am very candid, and people believe I am very passionate, but I don’t think people always agree with how I express it.