INTERNATIONAL: THE DECISION MAKERS/TED SANN - Why BBDO New York’s chief aims to keep his hands creative/Ted Sann on the probability that he will follow Dusenberry to chair BBDO Worldwide

Ted Sann, the hand-picked heir to BBDO Worldwide’s creative head and vice-chairman, Phil Dusenberry, is a reserved man. He steers clear of journalists and rarely gives interviews. So Campaign was curious when he offered to swap his last night of a trip to Paris for a cup of coffee and a chat in Hammersmith. A face-to-face interview with Sann. Surely this means news. Is Dusenberry moving on to write Hollywood scripts? Is Sann taking over?

Ted Sann, the hand-picked heir to BBDO Worldwide’s creative head

and vice-chairman, Phil Dusenberry, is a reserved man. He steers clear

of journalists and rarely gives interviews. So Campaign was curious when

he offered to swap his last night of a trip to Paris for a cup of coffee

and a chat in Hammersmith. A face-to-face interview with Sann. Surely

this means news. Is Dusenberry moving on to write Hollywood scripts? Is

Sann taking over?



But Sann is one of those people with whom you could be stuck in a lift

for 24 hours and know no more about than when you went in. Of course,

like all Manhattan advertising veterans, he can make pleasant

conversation - but he’s no ’deep throat’.



He comes across as an agreeable, under-stated fiftysomething American

with a quiet manner. He has an impeccable 20-year pedigree with BBDO New

York - he’s currently the agency’s joint chief executive officer - and

he tells you that he has a house on Long Island. But whether he will

follow Dusenberry into the chairman’s role at BBDO Worldwide remains

very much a question.



’I like what I do at the moment,’ Sann concedes. ’I’m certainly not

pushing for anything else. I know it’s important to do real jobs, jobs

that produce work. It’s always been a mainstay for me.’ Somehow, it’s

easy to believe the honest-looking Sann. The enjoyment he gets from

rolling up his sleeves and getting stuck into the creative side of

advertising is one of the few emotions that shines through almost

everything he says.



Ask him, for example, how BBDO got to win the most creative awards of

any network for the past two years and he talks about ’just buying the

most creative agencies around and letting them get on with it’. Ask him

how BBDO New York got so successful and he talks about ’just delivering’

on the work. ’We don’t have a whole lot of systems and internal

reviews.



If the creative people like a campaign, then it goes to the client,’ he

explains, arranging his long, spare limbs and sipping a cup of black

coffee. ’We focus compulsively on the work. We tend to avoid going in

for gadgets.’



These are almost the words of an idealistic junior creative, not an

advertising veteran. But junior he certainly is not. The Cannes Grand

Prix for his most famous work, the ’archaeology’ spot for Pepsi, is 13

years old this year. It has been five years since he was appointed chief

creative officer for BBDO New York and he has shared the joint chief

executive role with Tom Carey, an account manager, for three-and-a-half

years. New York rumour-mongers periodically claim Dusenberry will

relinquish his role to immerse himself in writing of some sort.



Over the years, Sann has had to tear part of himself away from the

day-to-day aspects of the job to take a broader, more managerial view,

even though it has called on his reserves of self-discipline. Sann calls

the tricky role of getting heavily involved with creative style without

interfering with creativity itself a ’tough bounce’.



Criticising others obviously doesn’t come naturally to him and he feels

the need to explain himself. ’When people come into my office, I pray

that it will be great work ... but ...’ He is almost apologetic.



So, having won top awards, run a top agency and sat in judgment on his

peers at Cannes (it was the Frank Lowe year - don’t ask him about it),

what other goals can possibly remain, bar the top job at BBDO

Worldwide?



’I just want to keep people’s attention on the work. I don’t want to be

lost in a maze of the crap that can often surround it,’ he says with a

hint of ambiguity.



Perhaps a full 48 hours in a lift would do it ...



FACT FILE



1968



Armed with a masters degree in fine art, takes a job with the New York

City school system trying to persuade drop-out kids to go back to

school



1970



Joins BBDO New York as a trainee and rises through the creative

ranks



1985



Wins Cannes Grand Prix for Pepsi’s ’archaeology’



1993



Named chief creative officer of BBDO New York



1994



Becomes joint chief executive officer of BBDO BBDO wins more Cannes

lions than any other agency



1998



For the fifth successive year, BBDO New York wins first place in USA

Today’s survey of consumers’ favourite commercials aired during the

Super Bowl.



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