His title might be “chairman emeritus,” but DDB's Keith Reinhard is still as immersed in the ad business as ever. Even though he only goes into the agency's Madison Avenue office a few days a week, it's clear on this week’s Ad Age Ad Lib podcast that Reinhard, who has spent 65 years at the craft, is clearly still in love with it. “I have no regrets about getting into the ad business and staying as long as I can,” he says.
During our discussion, the AAF Hall of Famer talked about his introduction to advertising, which seemed improbable growing up in a small Mennonite town in Indiana where his family banned TV watching. He says that the local grocery store where his mom worked was too small to hang collateral material and signs, which he would take home and study. “Betty Crocker was my first pin-up girl,” he says.
Eventually, he joined Chicago’s Needham, Louis & Broby agency, where he was the “oldest beginning copywriter,” he says, stationed near the coffee and soft drink machines where “I couldn’t concentrate because I was being asked to make change all day.”
From there, however, it was all upside for Reinhard, who went on to create many classic campaigns for brands like State Farm and perhaps his most famous, for McDonald’s. In our conversation he talks about creating the “You Deserve a Break Today,” campaign and the McDonaldland characters, a well as the sting of losing the account.
“I did not expect to be fired,” he says, noting that he found out on a Sunday, his daughter’s first birthday, while he was hosting the General Mills client at his home. McDonald’s at the time represented more than half the agency’s business. Reinhard fired no one--and just as the 90-day contract was up, landed Anheuser-Busch, saving all those jobs.
Podcast listeners will also learn why he pointed a cannon--literally--at Leo Burnett’s offices, the inside story of the “Big Bang” merger that created Omnicom (and why he had to keep changing rooms at The Palace Hotel). He also discusses his admiration for Bill Bernbach (“the Picasso of the business”), and collaborations with Sid Caesar's "Your Show of Shows" actor Howard Morris and “Looney Tunes” legend Chuck Jones.
But our conversation was not all historical. Within it, Reinhard gives some canny observations on what he calls “digital distraction” and the future of agencies. “There will always be interest in in-house, there will always be interest in bespoke, there will always be interest so putting disciplines together and Accenture buying Droga and so forth,” says Reinhard. “But there will also always be DDB.”