CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/KEITH REINHARD - Cannes jury president gives creativity top billing. Keith Reinhard believes in the primacy of the creative idea, Claire Cozens writes

By CLAIRE COZENS,, Friday, 25 June 1999 12:00AM

’Folksy’ and ’home-spun’ are characteristics not normally associated with the glitz and glamour of the Cannes International Advertising Festival.

’Folksy’ and ’home-spun’ are characteristics not normally

associated with the glitz and glamour of the Cannes International

Advertising Festival.

Yet speak to anyone about Keith Reinhard, who as jury president is the

man who will shape this year’s event, and these are the words that seem

to dominate the conversation.

Reinhard, who is from the Midwest of the US and worked as a creative

before rising to become chairman and chief executive of DDB Worldwide,

seems perfectly suited for the task of jury president. Famously

described as a ’soft-spoken revolutionary’, his passionate belief in the

power of creative ideas has enabled him to build what is possibly the

most creatively successful agency network in the world.

Those who have worked with him agree that Reinhard is an inspirational

figure. He was responsible for the formation of DDB after the merger of

Doyle Dane Bernbach and Needham Harper Worldwide in 1986 and is credited

with creating a single, internationally acclaimed agency network out of

two mediocre ones.

His proselytising attitude and complete lack of cynicism, which

colleagues say at times verges on naivety, at first made some New

Yorkers suspicious.

But he won them over with his simple enthusiasm for the job and by being

- well, just plain nice - a quality that is credited with winning

business from clients such as McDonald’s and Anheuser-Busch.

Tony Cox, creative director of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, worked under

Reinhard at DDB Needham and then at BMP DDB. ’The creation of the

network is Keith’s big achievement,’ he says. ’He was the only one who

could have pulled that whole thing together, because he was so

passionately convinced of its rightness that he managed to convince

everyone else.’

It was Reinhard’s decision to buy innovative local shops and his idea to

take on board a number of disparate cultures rather than forcing them to

adhere to a single corporate culture. The move has paid off. DDB won 180

Cannes lions between 1988 and 1998 - 69 more than its closest


Last year, DDB agencies won a record 34 lions at Cannes and the

network’s Brazilian agency, DM9 DDB, was named the festival’s agency of

the year.

As a copywriter, Reinhard was best known for his work on McDonald’s,

including the ’you deserve a break today’ campaign, which in 1999 was

voted the top jingle of all time by Advertising Age. But he describes

his career with characteristic modesty: ’I started in advertising as an

art director and bummed around for a while in art studios fancying

myself as a great art director. Finally I got an interview with a proper

ad agency and they saw my art work and asked whether I had ever

considered becoming a writer.’

The career change worked in his favour, and Reinhard made his way up to

copy supervisor, then to creative director. In 1980, he was made

president of the Chicago office of Needham Harper and, in 1984, he

became head of Needham Harper Worldwide.

Along with Allen Rosenshine, chairman and chief executive officer of

BBDO Worldwide, he was one of the architects of the advertising

industry’s first and only three-way merger (with Doyle Dane Bernbach and

Needham Harper Worldwide) which created Omnicom. At the same time, he

oversaw the formation of DDB Needham Worldwide.

’Without Keith one wonders what would have become of the DDB Needham

merger,’ says James Best, chairman of BMP DDB London and president,

northern Europe. ’It was a nightmare, really, they were two completely

different cultures. But Keith is a real visionary and a worrier. He set

very high standards and has seen off the critics to end up with a pretty

top-rate network.’

He also has a reputation as a workaholic - Best says he gets calls at

10am UK time from Reinhard in his New York office. But in spite of his

workaholism, Reinhard is no slavedriver - rather, he leads by example

and maintains the open management style that has enabled the network’s

offices to retain their individuality. This style is characterised by

what he calls ’the four freedoms’: freedom from fear, freedom to fail,

freedom from chaos and freedom to be. He maintains that management will

be successful so long as it provides those four freedoms.

Earlier this year, DDB set up a worldwide operating committee with the

44-year-old North American president, Ken Kaess, at its helm. The other

committee members are the DM9 DDB Brazil president, Nizam Guanaes, aged

40; Best, 45; Michael Bray, managing director worldwide accounts, 48;

Keith Bremer, chief financial officer, 44; and Herve Brossard,

chairman-CEO of DDB France and president, southern Europe, 49.

The decision was widely seen as a move to put in place Reinhard’s


But although he is now 64 - well past the age at which most senior

advertising executives have abandoned the office in favour of the golf

course - Reinhard has no intention of retiring, and seems to have more

enthusiasm and energy than a lot of men half his age.

One of the guiding principles behind the creative success of the DDB

network has been Reinhard’s belief in the overriding importance of the

creative idea in advertising. For him, the practicalities of the

execution must come second.

It is a principle originated by one of the founding fathers of DDB, Bill

Bernbach, and one that still pervades the network. And it is a fitting

belief for the president of the Cannes jury.

’Cannes is the most important of the truly international competitions,’

Reinhard says. ’It focuses on creativity within the framework of

traditional media - of press, posters, TV and cinema. That is important

because it expands the definition of creativity and provides an

incentive for creative people around the world to keep breaking new


He is understandably reluctant to talk about this year’s event before

the judging takes place, but outlines his basic ambitions: ’I want to

make sure we have a collection of work that has integrity and that

salutes creativity - I think that’s what most jury presidents want to

do. I think the competition needs to reward originality and I’m hoping

that we see some stuff that is fresh and surprising.’

Despite his reputation for being folksy and old-fashioned, Reinhard has

always been keen to embrace the new. As early as 1993, he was warning

that agencies would have to embrace multi-media. He welcomes the

introduction of the Cyber Lions last year, and of the Media Lions at

this year’s festival, but says that the international advertising

festival will have to change still further if it is to remain


’I think that what the Cannes Festival will reward in five years’ time

will be radically different,’ he predicts. ’The craft of advertising

will always be part of it, just as people will always be attracted to

movie making. But it will have to change, otherwise it will become a

very specialised festival.’

One question that Reinhard believes needs to be addressed is that of

creativity in new-media advertising. At the moment, he believes,

advertising on the internet is all about appealing to people’s sense of

logic, rather than to their emotions, as more traditional advertising


There are, he says, two different generations in the advertising

industry: those who grew up with the Bernbach style of advertising that

appeals to a whole range of human emotions, but are uncomfortable with

new media, and what he calls the ’rock star types’ - those who are doing

lots of work with new media, but are failing to connect with people


’Advertising is very conservative and creative people are arguably the

most conservative of them all,’ he says. ’They can be very resistant to

new ideas. But I think that will be the next major industry development

- internet advertising that appeals to people’s emotions.’

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