Thought I’d share this conversation I had with Helayne Spivak in Boulder last month. Helayne, like me, has been in this business for too long. But unlike a lot of people who just take up space or rest on past laurels, Helayne is in the midst of re-inventing herself and loving it.
Currently creative chief at Saatchi & Saatchi Consumer Health+Wellness, she showed up at BDW’s Making Digital Works with some of her staff as part of her personal quest to learn the new stuff and stay relevant. Of course when it comes to that very subject this wonderful writer whose skills have earned her leadership creative roles in places like the once enviable Ammirati and Puris along with JWT and Y&R, can express herself far better than I might speak on her behalf.
“I’ve never shot a bull rhino before but they say that if a one is chasing you and you shoot it in its head it will run a mile and a half before it knows it’s dead. And that’s what the agency (referring to a past employer) was like. A hole in its head, still running, not knowing it was dead.”
Helayne doesn’t really have that much left to prove in the advertising industry. She has cleaned up at virtually every award show, from One Show to Clio. She has judged Cannes, been featured in the now defunct Wall Street Journal leaders’ series, and even been named one of the top 50 women in business by Business Week.
But taking a chapter from David Ogilvy, Helayne believes that you either embrace what’s new or get out of the way. Given that she doesn’t have as nice a place as David has to get out of the way to, she came to Boulder instead.
During one of my presentations I noticed her nametag as she sat in the front row of the workshop. At first I was surprised. Wow, what’s Helayne Spivak doing at Making Digital Work? But perhaps I shouldn’t have been. After all this was the same woman who in 1993 advised an industry to “stay in touch with popular culture and to know what people are reading, seeing and thinking. It’s not enough to be obsessed with advertising, you have to be obsessed with life.”
There are a lot of egos in the advertising business that exhaust their energy holding on to the past or fighting to preserve their reputations. What a waste of time that is. The industry and the culture both change way too fast. Which brings me to one more of Helayne’s quotes. “You don’t get uncool by aging, you get uncool by not getting out there. Never think you know anything. That’s why I’m here.”
That’s why I’m here, too. Do you remember Helayne? If so, share a story.