Lor Gold On The Spot

Once a rock drummer in his native Los Angeles, Gold switched to advertising after writing and voicing ads at an underground FM station. After joining independent shop Clinton E. Frank as a copywriter for Toyota, Gold moved to DDB, where he was later named president of its Denver office. He later went to Jack Levy & Associates, Chicago, as president, then below-the-line as a group creative director at Frankel. In 2001, the 56-year-old joined Draft Chicago as chief creative officer. Next month, Gold will oversee the first sales promotion competition at the International Advertising Festival at Cannes. Q: What do you say to people who look at Draft and what it has historically been and say it’s not “creative”?

A: The first thing I would counter with is, “Who doesn’t consider it creative?” Our only job is to talk to consumers, and I think they would say it’s creative. I think it’s people in the industry who feel threatened by where we’re going. Some are threatened, some just dismiss it. If they do, they really don’t know what they’re talking about. The ones who are intimidated by us do know what they’re talking about because they can see that it’s creative. The creativity is not just in the execution of the tactic. It’s in the platform and the idea of that tactic. Because once you own the tactic and the platform, any idea can grow out of it.

How do you get that platform?

We’ve done a couple of things that are interesting. One is a concept group. These are people that are not within the industry. They’re outside the industry, and they’re the most creative thinkers I’ve ever met in my life. We can take a product or service, put it on a table and have five of these people look at it and get 15 different points of view on how to communicate that product or service. And it’s steeped in deep consumer insights and the ability to understand what pop culture is all about.

Do you ever get concerned that too much tactical thought can stifle creativity?

That’s why the concept group is separate from the creative group—because they don’t have to worry about tactics, their team’s career plans or their client’s corporate identity program. That’s for the traditional creatives to think about. All they have to think about is how someone might think.

What’s the best idea you’ve seen at Draft?

That nugget for milk. The milk mustache was a great idea and great execution, but wasn’t selling any more milk. The idea was that 24 ounces a day would help you lose weight. No one knew what 24 ounces looked like, and we had to make that tangible. So we created this icon that was a curved glass. It turned the purchaser into a consumer.

Is there a moment, or do you dream of a moment, where you get to tell the traditional world, “I told you so”?

I really would like to do that, but I think it’s counterproductive. Because what you’re doing is just taking on your own industry. That takes up too much energy. I want to use the same energy to move clients forward—then I don’t have to tell anyone that.

Who has influenced you the most creatively?

Bill Bernbach. He got the world to acknowledge that the creative was as important as any other function in the advertising science. Second of all, he could write a headline that didn’t need visuals. He was into new media opportunities. He could do everything from a great TV commercial to a bag for Orbach’s. A poster on a bus didn’t matter to him. We’re still doing that today.

How do you get past a creative block?

One is to just sit in those rooms with those conceptors. Their job is to not get blocked. The other thing I do is to get away from the business. I don’t want to forget that what I’m doing is not insular. I walk around, go to a museum or sit on a bus bench. Sometimes, I just take a bus ride and see the people you’re selling to. They’re the bosses. They want creativity, and they need creativity.

What was the last ad that made you think, “I wish I had done that”?

I think the new American Express stuff works really well. I don’t know that I wish I’d done it. But I totally respect it.

What’s the smartest business decision you ever made?

To not be a president anymore. I could do it, but I didn’t enjoy it. It’s an incredibly hard job. I’d rather be doing what I’m doing.

What’s your dream assignment?

I’d like a blue sky assignment for somebody. “What would you do with this? We don’t know what to do with it; show us what to do with it.” It can’t be about a tactic, like, “Give us a TV spot for this.”

Give me three words to describe yourself.

I’m intuitive, I’m challenging and I lack patience for mediocrity. At my age, I’ve worked on just about everything. I have real lack of patience for cliché. I don’t know how to turn that into a word.

What is your biggest fear in life?

Lack of respect. It pisses me off.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

From a business standpoint, it’s the below-the-line and above-the-line. And what’s good and what’s bad. It’s stupid. Anybody who wants to continue thinking that way is not going to make it. I feel bad for them. My biggest pet peeve personally is people who don’t vote. That’s probably true professionally, too. If you don’t stand up, if you don’t make yourself heard, you’re kind of worthless to everybody, including yourself.