CAMPAIGN INTERNATIONAL: DECISION MAKER BOB SCARPELLI - A creative heavyweight displaying a loyal streak/DDB Needham Chicago’s creative head and vice-chairman is very tenacious, Anna Griffiths reveals

Bob Scarpelli, the vice-chairman and chief creative officer of DDB Needham Chicago, is a loyal type. He’s been there for 27 years.

Bob Scarpelli, the vice-chairman and chief creative officer of DDB

Needham Chicago, is a loyal type. He’s been there for 27 years.

But don’t believe for a moment that he’s a comfy, unadventurous type,

because this is the man behind much of the edgy, creative output for

Anheuser Busch, and the latest ’Rex, the movie-star dog’ ad, first aired

at the much-hyped Superbowl last month. This ad features a dog who has

to cry for his role in a weepy western, which he does spectacularly when

he remembers crashing into a lawn care van while trying to follow a

Budweiser one. Its irreverence continues the theme: ’This Bud’s for


Scarpelli admits that he wishes his agency had come up with the cult

’Louis the Lizard’ advertising, which was conceived by DDB’s Omnicom

cousin, Goodby Silverstein, but he is quick to point out the Cannes

Lions, which DDB has picked up for its Budweiser work. Returning to the

dog-themed ads could have been a risk, but Scarpelli has managed to pull

it off.

It is no mean feat to head DDB Chicago’s creative department - after

all, that post was once held by Keith Reinhard, chairman and chief

executive of DDB Worldwide. Scarpelli oversees a creative department of

230 people which works on clients such as McDonald’s, General Mills,

Frito-Lay, Discover Card and The Dairy Council.

While drawing attention to the importance of the Chicago agency within

the US network, James Best, BMP DDB’s group chairman and president of

Northern Europe, speaks highly of Scarpelli’s personal and management

skills: ’He’s tenacious and comes back with something even better if

he’s initially been knocked back. He obviously has the ability to bring

in good people, and mixes a bit of bouncy charm with heavy

organisational ability.’

Despite his long tenure at the Chicago agency, Scarpelli started out at

a small agency, which no longer exists, called Stern Walters and


’I was a baby copywriter working on a bunch of little things,’ he says

in his warm, down-to-earth manner. He then spent a year at Leo


His route to the agency world from college was precipitated by an

interest in commercials during his childhood. ’I got interested in

advertising as a kid - I remember liking commercials better than TV


Scarpelli still has a few more rungs to climb on the DDB ladder.

’Without getting into details, I will be asked to take on a broader role

beyond DDB Chicago, helping out on offices in the US and around the

world,’ he says. This will be in addition to his responsibilities as a

director on the DDB worldwide board of directors.

Scarpelli appears disarmingly honest. Not expecting to get a straight

answer when I ask him where he perceives weaknesses in his agency, he

says: ’We need to do better print. It’s gotten better but it’s still not

as good as it should be. We do so much TV and radio - broadcast is such

a big part of what we do. We’re not winning awards for our print yet,

but that’s what I really want to do.’

He is particularly proud of the Budweiser work that becomes street


A recent US campaign, known as the ’wazzup!’ campaign, has been written

about in NewsWeek as a cultural phenomenon, provoking people to greet

each other in the ’wazzup’ style. He says: ’We have been able to create

advertising that has transcended advertising which has become part of

the culture.’

Even out of hours, Scarpelli is furiously noting down ideas: ’I write

things down in the middle of the night - it’s a purer place. during the

day you get so bombarded with things. I write things down in the shower

- you never know when an idea may hit you.’

It may seem cheesy to us stiff-upper-lipped Brits that Scarpelli’s

extra-curricular activities on his CV include ’trying to be a good dad’.

But Scarpelli rescues his credibility with his passion for baseball. He

supports the Chicago Cubs, which only serves to emphasise his loyal

streak: ’They’re loveable losers, they never win and haven’t won the

championship since 1908, or something like that, but I still love them.’