Alex Bogusky: “There is one big reason”


Alex Bogusky has been called the Elvis of Advertising. With classic campaigns for Burger King, Volkswagen, Hulu and Ikea, Alex has become one of the most influential creatives of our time. So when he chose to leave the business in July 2010, many eyebrows were raised, and many questions were left unanswered. Alex himself calls Please copy me “a great place to set the record straight”. These are his own words on the future of advertisement, the importance of change, and why he decided to move on.

Hi, Alex. Why are you leaving the advertising industry?
»I didn’t say I was leaving the industry. Other people suggest I’m leaving the industry. I’m a designer that became an advertiser and probably have the mind of a marketer. So the industry is plenty big for me to be all those things without working at an advertising agency. So the question is probably more around why I left an agency I love and helped build. There are probably a couple hundred little reasons and one big reason. I couldn’t find a way to be my genuine self anymore. I couldn’t use my genuine voice anymore in a public forum. And because of that I was having less and less fun. If we are lucky in life our values and our professional life are in perfect alignment. I had that and I was on a mission most of my career but over the last year and a half the values and the work began to migrate away from each other. I tried to bring them back in line and perhaps I should have continued on that path but I realized that it would have cost a lot of people their jobs and I wasn’t willing to do that.«

What has been your greatest motivation and inspiration over the years?
»Change. I love when things change and I love to be a part of that change. Playing in the psychic soup of pop culture is just flat fun. Whether you do it on a micro level with some sticker or a macro level with a hundred million dollar campaign it’s invigorating in the same way the movie and music industries are. And the tool of creativity is a tool you never become a complete master of. There is always more to learn and new people to teach. We all have the innate ability to be creative problem solvers and I love being a part of pulling that out of people.«

What’s your advice to people who want to change the world through advertising?
»Read Danielle Goleman‘s latest book, Ecological Intelligence. He also wrote Emotional Intelligence which is a life changer for any creative person. In his new book he outlines the coming power of radical transparency to transform consumers from mindless consumption to an enlightened and highly educated consumption. With transparency and new digital tools for consumers to effortlessly examine the entire life cycle of a company and or product, the desire to actually “vote with your dollars” can become a reality. Any advertiser that wants to create a greater good will look for ways to align there clients with this move toward a more enlightened and empowered customer.«

Where is advertising going? What does the future hold – both for creatives and consumers?
»Pick a direction. It will go pretty much every direction you see it going now plus a few more for the next few years. But beyond that my sense is that the marketers job will be less and less about telling made up stories or 30 second theatre and move more toward a group of professionals that have the skills and insights to deliver a very accurate and transparent real-time reality of exactly what a product or company is. Less bull shit and more reality has been the trend and I think it will increase dramatically in the coming years. And the most successful marketer will be those that can deliver something as mundane as the truth in an entertaining and engaging way.«

Now, what is your next move?
»I heard Joseph Campbell say “follow your bliss” when I was 19 years old and I’ve tried to stay true to those words. We all have an amazingly accurate internal compass that we can follow even though we have no idea where the destination is. If it gets you excited and feels right then it probably is. So I’ve got the compass out and I’m walking.«

Interview by Mattias Åkerberg, copywriter and advertising blogger based in Gothenburg, Sweden. Feel free to quote this article. If you do so, please mention Please copy me as the source. Thanks for reading.