The JWT Street Band

Eric Steinhauser was busy last week. On Monday, the J. Walter Thompson ecd hobnobbed with the stars at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions at the Waldorf-Astoria. The next day, he was back in the same ballroom for another Hall of Fame ceremony: that of the American Advertising Federation. “As much as I loved Monday night, there’s nothing like the AAF inductions,” Steinhauser says, tongue in cheek. “I was tired, though. I think I learned my lesson for next year: Don’t hang out with the rock ‘n’ roll guys. Stay home Monday and get a good night’s sleep!”

On Wednesday, Steinhauser sounded none the worse for wear as he met with Steven Van Zandt—E Street Band guitarist, Sopranos thug, rock ‘n’ roll savior—about possibly working together. The Rock Hall (a JWT client) and Van Zandt are on a similar mission: to revitalize rock by connecting past and present, legendary and contemporary. The Rock Hall’s efforts include an upcoming concert series on VH1 called In Tune, executive-produced by JWT unit IconEntertainment@JWT. Van Zandt, meanwhile, has a syndicated radio show, Little Steven’s Underground Garage, that has introduced scores of new bands, from the Strokes to the White Stripes, and aims to help rock thrive in a culture dominated by hip-hop and pop.

It’s too early to say what JWT’s role might be, but Van Zandt, 53, is a tireless and charming self-promoter. He has gotten companies such as Pepsi and Unilever to support his radio show, and he says ad agencies will become a force in music. “For rock ‘n’ roll to survive—and it will never be as influential as it was, but for it to survive as a niche—it’s going to need the support of sponsorship and advertising,” Van Zandt tells Shoptalk. “These days the ad-agency people are much more creative and adventurous than the record companies or even the radio stations. The rebels are on the other side of the fence.”