Monday, May 20, 2013

Donny Deutsch’s brash account of a life spent in advertising

Often Wrong, Never in Doubt – Unleash the Business Rebel Within
By Donny Deutsch, written with Peter Knobler
Published by HarperCollins Publishers in 2005

Often Wrong, Never in Doubt is the inspirational story of adman Donny Deutsch. It’s a candid, pull-no-punches story about a life spent in the trenches of the advertising business, not to mention being a fun and entertaining read.

Donny goes into detail about his early years growing up in Queens, New York, his indifference to schooling and the educational system, his years searching for a career, his relationship with his father, and his prime years working in advertising.

Donny’s career starts in earnest, when he accepts a job working at a boutique ad agency owned by his father. His brash style, swagger and personality were a perfect fit for the advertising business. Over a 20-year span, starting in 1989 when he finally took over his father’s agency, Donny helped to build the company into one of the most successful and celebrated ad agencies in the U.S.

From early on in his career, Donny eschewed orthodox thinking. He knew how traditional ad agencies worked and he wanted no part of it at his agency. The status quo dictated that art directors, copywriters and account managers had clearly-defined roles, and there was no working outside of those parameters. Donny believed in the cross-pollination of ideas and talent; if a junior account manager had a great idea, then the idea was given equal consideration with ideas generated from seasoned veterans.

There is no mistaking Donny’s sense of pride and confidence. This is clearly evident when he describes some of the many successful campaigns that his agency produced, for clients ranging from drug companies (Pfizer) and automakers (General Motors) to retailing giants (Ikea) and telecommunications firms (Verizon).

By his own admission, Donny’s personality is part intellectual and part goofball. That’s part of his charm. He can be extremely insightful about any subject under the sun – such as when describing the current, sad state of political advertising in the U.S., or quite funny, when describing the sexual morays of past presidents (“Despite the stern appearances of the President and the First Lady, you knew that Ronald and Nancy Reagan were getting down….”). Underneath the bluster, however, is a keen intelligence at work, a forceful personality and a delightful chronicler of the ad industry, and about western culture.

Anyone who works in advertising and marketing will gain something useful in reading Often Wrong, Never in Doubt, or by tuning into old episodes of Donny’s CNBC talk show called The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch (2004 -2008). Many of those episodes reside on YouTube.

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