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Lisa Bennett is Executive Vice President of Creative at DDB North America. In 2003, Bennett joined DDB as Chief Creative Officer of the San Francisco office. She helped change the face of the agency with best-in-class creative on household brands such as Clorox, Glad and Kingsford. The agency won their first Cannes Lion two years after Lisa’s arrival and went on to win CLIOs, One Show Pencils and Cannes Lions across Outdoor, Film, Design and Media. Lisa has served on International juries for Cannes Lions, One Show, CLIO Awards, and Communication Arts. In January of 2013, Business Insider named Lisa one of the “Most Creative Women in Advertising.”

06.04.13

Championing the Underdog

If you have a degree in what field is it?  I have a Bachelor of Science in Advertising from the University of Texas. And yes, I've always thought having a “BS” in Advertising is hilarious.

If you could choose one person to work with (outside your own agency), who would it be? I would have loved to work with is Bill Bernbach, which doesn't really count because he is from my agency and he’s dead. As far as living, non-DDB people go, I think it would be incredibly inspiring and challenging to work with Richard Branson. He’s a creative genius and one of the ballsiest people in business today.

Who was the client for your first advertising project? Clarion Cosmetics. I think they went under in the ’90s. I don't think it was my fault.

If you were to change professions, what would you choose to do? I used to want to be a surgeon. I like to help people, and I like to fix things. But, Grey’s Anatomy gets more depressing every season, so I think I would opt for a profession where people smile more—like a ferris wheel operator.

What do you consider to be the greatest headline of all time?  Some of the greatest headlines came from the Bernbach era. My favorite is “Lemon” for Volkswagen. It’s an honest, unexpected, one-word headline that changed the face of advertising.

From where do your best ideas originate?  From conversations with people much more interesting than myself.

How do you overcome a creative block?  Music, sleep and wine—but not necessarily in that order.

If you could choose any product to create an ad for, what would it be?  I have always loved working on underdog products, meaning products that, at first blush, seem average or uncool. The ones that most creatives turn up their noses at because they don’t think it’s an opportunity to do great work. Every assignment for every product should be treated as an opportunity. The most fulfilling part of being a creative in advertising is coming up with an idea that makes people see a product in a whole new light. So, I would probably not choose to create an ad for something like iPhone or Nike's Fuelband. Let’s go with vanilla pudding.

Do you have creative outlets other than advertising?  Cooking and gardening are two things I love to do outside of my day job. I find both very therapeutic. Plus, they typically result in something you can eat—an added bonus.

What's your approach to balancing work and life?  I don't believe in "work/life balance." When you love two things they are not mutually exclusive.

What product/gadget can you not live without?  My screwpull.

What's your favorite quote?  "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession?  Don't give up—there is always another way; treat people with respect—they may actually know more than you; take risks, be true to yourself; and most of all, have fun.
All of which can be summed up by another great quote: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." —Mark Twain

What's one thing you wish you knew when you started your career?  That summers in San Francisco would be almost as cold as winters in Chicago.