The 2018 Dallas ADDYs had a new Chairman, Jerry Giordano, and very few of us had ever heard of him. Yet he commanded the stage and our attention with memorable quotes about Dallas and the advertising world in general. We decided to find out a little more about this Creative Director with 20+ year’s experience with national ad agencies such as Ogilvy & Mather, J. Walter Thompson, Chiat Day Wong/Doody and others… not to mention the NFL…and client experience with American Express, Disney, Virgin Mobile, Motorola, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft Foods, the United Way and more.
He’s been freelancing here in town but now that the ADDY’S are behind him, he told us he’s ready to settle in at a cool agency or client in DFW and listen and learn from the talent we have here.
Here’s our interview….
AdChat DFW: It seems like you’ve been everywhere but came out of nowhere to be Chairman of the Dallas ADDYS this year? How did that happen?
Jerry: I told myself when I moved to Dallas that I would say “Yes” to everything. I was here full-time for 3 weeks when the AAF board asked me to join and then to Chair the ADDYS. I said yes. Good thing they didn’t ask me to sing.
AdChat DFW: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Jerry: I’m quite mellow and even-keeled even when I’m working. I’m sort of a Zen guy from New Jersey… Buddha-Bing! I like quiet, calm, peaceful balance in a supportive environment with cool people where we all can collaborate safely. BUT… if I’m not challenged I get bored. I’m competitive and I do like to win so whether it’s the challenge of a new business pitch, a Nerf gun fight at the office or diving across the room for a ping-pong ball, I like a challenge. Then back to peaceful. Hope that doesn’t sound like I’m schizophrenic or something.
AdChat DFW: What is the best ad campaign ever?
Jerry: If I had to pick one, the Apple Think Different campaign. A two-word grammatically incorrect line that speaks volumes without saying a word about the product. And it was so simple. As Leo daVinci said: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” He failed to remind us how hard it is to get to something simple.
AdChat DFW: What’s the worst ad campaign ever?
Jerry: That list is too long. And I’ve padded it with plenty of my work for sure.
AdChat DFW: What ad guy/gal do you admire the most?
Jerry: The Godfather… Don Draper. But in real life probably Tracy Wong of WongDoody. A brilliant, competitive and creative mastermind. I loved working with him and watching him think. His portfolio looks like 10 different art directors worked on it.
AdChat DFW: Why are you such a JFK assassination buff? And who did it?
Jerry: That is a conversation over coffee or scotch and lots of time. Even after decades of obsessing I’m still peeling back new parts of the onion. A gift that keeps giving. Psssst… the mob did it!
AdChat DFW: What’s the most interesting advertising production situation you have found yourself?
Jerry: Food & Wine is a part of American Express publishing. My partner and I created a campaign that combined models and food. The client said, “We love the campaign but everything in the ad has to be edible.” We looked at the campaign and we went holy crap. In one ad we had a six-foot long Styrofoam model of a luxury car and every aspect of the car had to be edible. It was made up of cranberries glued to the foam model, the dashboard was crushed coconut, wheels made of watermelons. It was crazy. Like making giant fruit salad for the Rose Bowl float. It was working out until the photographer’s lights started melting the glue and the cranberries started plopping off like sweat from O.J. during his lie detector test. They’d stick them back, take a few shots, then turn off the lights. A logistical nightmare. The campaign turned out great but the photographer, model maker and food stylist swore they’d never work together again.
AdChat DFW: Career-wise, what would you say you’re most proud of?
Jerry: I think I have to say looking foolish. After all these years working with many incredibly talented, smart, creative people, I haven’t lost the willingness to say or think some really dumb, stupid stuff—to channel my Inner Idiot as I like to say. Because, more times than not, we have to sift through everything in the bag to find the gem somewhere.
AdChat DFW: Any examples of how that works?
Jerry: My partner and I were working on a campaign for Maxwell House Coffee that was running in Rolling Stone magazine. Working late we had half-empty coffee cups all over the office. We started making designs out of coffee rings left on a sketch pad to pass time while we were not thinking… drawing coffee ring faces, baseballs, Earth, a peace sign, ugly-ass snowmen. And then eyeglasses. That led to John Lennon, then the “A day in the life” song came the next day. And coffee rings (aka: dots) got connected.
Today’s crazy is tomorrow’s creative solution. You just never know where an idea will come from. Sometimes the idea comes from someone else. A giant Teamster in front of me said a dumb hysterical line to the guy next to him. Months later, I tweaked the line and put it with a picture of Dick Butkus… the nastiest, meanest old-school NFL football player ever. The headline was “He never wore an earring.” The dumb line worked in context.
AdChat DFW: What does football teach you about life?
Jerry: You have to play in the moment. The last play doesn’t exist any more and the next play depends on what happens now. All we have is the play we’re in or the life moment we’re living right now. Jeez, I sound like the Dali Lombardi.
AdChat DFW: What was your most embarrassing moment?
Jerry: I asked a woman at a high school reunion when her baby was due. She said “I had it 4 months ago.” Where’s the bolt of lightning striking me down when I need it?
AdChat DFW: What do you value most in an agency creative?
Jerry: Someone who realizes this is not art, it’s a business. Clients aren’t the Medici family subsidizing us to do artistic masterpieces. Someone who gets that, yet still strives and pushes to make the work the best it can be, gets my respect. My admiration. And my loyalty.
AdChat DFW: What do you value the most in a client?
Jerry: Structure and consistency. If a client can agree on a tight strategy and stick to it, I will kiss their ring. One of my mentors at Ogilvy, Norman Berry, had the greatest line ever. “Give me the Freedom of a Tightly Defined Strategy.” If I could have only one rule that would be it. People constantly say they want Out of the Box Thinking. Well, if you don’t have a box to begin with, it’s impossible to think outside of it!
AdChat DFW: What is your favorite biography?
Jerry: Probably Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog about his journey founding Nike. Close to bankruptcy so many times he was like the cartoon character hanging off the cliff by a tiny branch ready to crash into the abyss but he kept going. He didn’t want to disappoint the people who trusted him. I love that. Also, Charles Schultz—creator of Peanuts. He was this unassuming quite dude who went off into his sanctuary and scribbled out a world that the rest of the world fell in love with. I guess I related to Charlie Brown as a kid. Okay, I still do!
AdChat DFW: Is there just one of you?
Jerry: Interesting. There used to be two actually. The one that thought I wasn’t good enough and the other one that tried to convince myself and everyone else that I was. I’m finally comfortable in my own imperfections. So, I guess only one now, thankfully. The one who figured out how to let go! I also have a twin sister. You’d be surprised how many people ask if we’re identical.
AdChat DFW: What is your perception of Dallas now that you’re living here?
Jerry: I think Dallas will be the Mecca of 21st century marketing. There is an old Dallas perception and a new Dallas reality. I don’t think even Dallas knows how good it truly is. It’s like looking real closely at one of those pictures that’s a whole bunch a dots, but then you step back and you start to see a form… then pull back more, and it’s a beautiful complete picture. That’s Dallas. Listen, I’ve been in the bargain basement at times in the past, but I prefer the upper floors. Dallas in definitely the up escalator and I want to surf it.