Kevin Roddy On The Spot

Kevin Roddy, ecd of Bartle Bogle Hegarty in New York, was an account guy at Earle Palmer Brown when Bill Westbrook encouraged him to cross over to copywriter in 1991. The 45-year-old Portland, Ore., native’s reel includes Fox Sports’ baseball (“The sounds of the game”), The X Show (“We know what guys are really thinking”) and now, two TV pilots—The Order of the Serpentine and Gamekillers, both of which were funded by Unilever’s Axe, a BBH client. Gamekillers, a show about not losing your cool that brands Axe without showing or mentioning it, will become a series on MTV this fall. Q: Gamekillers and Serpentine are both products of ad briefs. What led you to content?

A: Each one of them was to launch a particular product. Gamekillers was to launch Axe Dry—sort of an antiperspirant/deodorant thing—and Serpentine was a shower gel. So it’s always under the umbrella of the “Axe Effect.” What led us to content from that? I have to give credit to the client because the client is always pushing us into doing new things, and for me it’s very important Axe be a brand that leads its audience as opposed to expecting the audience to drag you along with them. … The idea of Gamekillers literally initially came up as a TV idea, and it was such a big idea that [Axe group cd] William [Gelner] and I just said, “This is much, much bigger than a television campaign of advertising.”

When did @Radical.Media come aboard and what piece of the puzzle did they provide?

We were lucky enough to have gotten some meetings with some very important network executives. The thing we found out pretty quickly was the networks, rightfully so, just said, “You have absolutely no experience doing television programming.” … That’s when we went back and said, “We need a partner who knows how to do this,” and got Radical. Radical had a relationship with MTV, so we took it to MTV.

Is BBH a stakeholder in Gamekillers, or does the client own that?

The client.

Is this your first content experience?

Yeah, it is. I’ve always found this incredibly interesting that more people haven’t understood what this actually is. Everybody talks about content. A lot of brands say, “We’ve done content before,” but they’ve never done it this way. If you look at BMW Films, BMW Films for all intents and purposes was advertising in the form of content that aired on the Web. This is advertising in the form of content airing on television. I don’t know if a lot of people ever truly understand what that really means. I think a lot of people just sort of think, “Oh content. Well, my brand believes in music and, therefore, we did a show about music.” But it’s not [that]. This is advertising content.

How did being an account guy shape you creatively?

It helped me get a running start as opposed to sort of a standing start. I understood the business. I understood clients. I understood how work got through the system. Also, ideas and the power of ideas.

Who’s the most underrated agency?

I won’t say underrated, but I will say an agency that I respect a lot but hasn’t hit it big yet: Mother in New York. And that honestly comes from Linus and Paul. I think those are two of the smartest creative guys I’ve ever worked with. Smartest and talented. I creative-directed them, and they taught me an incredible amount. The way they approach a problem and absorb information and build a box for themselves is a sight to be seen.

What ads make you jealous?

I love what Stella Artois does in the U.K.

What is it about that work?

They created or fabricated an image for that brand that has elevated that brand to such a big place. To me those types of things are of the power of ideas. A strong idea, a simple idea that people can just latch onto.

What inspires you creatively?

Almost everything: books, music, just walking down the street, talking to people.

What books are you reading right now?

I go through phases, and I’m in my re- reading phase right now. I’m about halfway through To Kill a Mockingbird again, one of my favorite books.

What else is on that list?

I want to read Lonesome Dove again, another favorite book. I want to read The World According to Garp again. And once I read those three, I’ll probably then go back to something new.

What three words describe you?

Calm. Collaborative. Intense.

What three words would other people use?

Hopefully, the same three or nicer ones. Hopefully not worse.

Which is the most consistent agency?

Wieden. I think they are consistently outstanding and consistently creatively innovative. They tend to be the kind of agency that does work that people copy, but you never see them copy somebody else’s style. I’ve always respected Wieden for that.

You ever have an opportunity to work there?

I have. Going back to Portland for me, there’s a mental block there. I love my family to death, [but] I think I’d have trouble living in the same city with them.