Droga5 New York's Ted Royer tells of his first time

ted-ROYER.jpgMy First Time is a book that tells of the first time ads created by some of the biggest creative names in world advertising. Author Phil Growick has banded together a list of contributors to write about the first work they ever did. One of the contributors is Droga5 New York executive creative director Ted Royer, who for three years worked at Saatchi & Saatchi in Singapore. Here is his story.

Originally from Philadelphia, Ted Royer is currently partner/Executive Creative Director at Droga5 in New York. Royer graduated from the Portfolio Center in 1995. He won more One Show pencils than anyone in history in his first year as an art director at Leonard/Monahan.

While in Saatchi Singapore he was ranked the number 8, and then the number 4 creative in Asia by Campaign Brief Asia. Saatchi was voted the Ad Age International Agency of the Year. While regional Creative Director in Latin America, he was on the Ogilvy & Mather Creative Council, the youngest person ever to be in that group.

At Wieden + Kennedy Royer's SportCenter ads became part of a class taught at Harvard about successful business relationships, the example being Wieden and ESPN's fruitful 10 year partnership. He's very proud that his ads were being shown at Harvard, a school he could have never gotten into. At Publicis, Royer was on the Worldwide Creative Council. He ran the Sydney office for a year and then went to New York to make ads for Heineken.
Since his time helping to build Droga5 from it's founding, the agency has been named Creativity's Agency of the year, and has also won impressive awards such as 4 Cannes Titaniums, 4 Cannes Grand Prixes, and two D&AD black pencils in one year. Royer helped win Puma, Method, Activision, Rhapsody. Coke, New Museum, and Net10.

Among his nearly 100 international awards are 16 Cannes Lions (including 2 Titaniums), 18 One show pencils, 2 gold Clios and 2 gold Andys.  And this year, Creativity ranked Royer as one of the Top Ten Creative Directors in the world for 2011.


You are a kid. You watch TV. You watch A LOT of TV. You grow up. More TV. You go to college. You study history. You watch more TV. You graduate. You realize you're not going to get a job because you have a history degree. You watch more TV and think what about what you can do with your life.

Then, as you're watching TV, a Little Caesar's Pizza-Pizza commercial comes on. You realize you want to make that. You realize you probably can make that. You go to ad school (all the while constantly watching TV, because now you can call it research). You get a job.

And that's how I found myself working for David Baldwin at Leonard/Monahan in 1995. David had been kind enough to offer me a job, partly because he liked my book, but mostly, I suspect, because I had Jack Kirby drawings in my resume.

I got an office. I got to work with Kara Goodrich, Greg Bokor, Rob Rich and John Simpson. I laughed a lot. I disliked Providence. I got to know Tom Monahan. I smoked weed. I watched TV.

And I wondered if and when I would be found out.

This was a little ridiculous. I wasn't really an art director. Doing campaigns in school was easy. You thought of a joke, slapped a product on it, and you were good. But at L/M, people were not only nailing difficult briefs, they were crafting the shit out of things. There would be hallway discussions about kerning a line that would last 30 minutes. These people were anal. And they were really, really good. I had tricked them this far, but the time was coming when I would have to show up and perform. And I didn't know if I could or not.

Polaroid was a big, important client of ours. Not only did it keep the lights on, but it allowed the agency to do tons of award-winning work. Kara and Rob had concepted a campaign, but before it got produced, Rob left. There was no one else who could cover it.

It was my first shoot. They flew me to Minneapolis to shoot three print ads. I was warned the client loved to be involved, and that this particular client was "a bit of a starfucker". It would be very important to her to know that one of our very best creatives was running the shoot. Even though this was my first shoot ever, I was instructed to act as if I knew EXACTLY what I was doing at all times.

We get to the shoot and begin to set up. All seems cool. I talk with the photographer and he's great, really open. The sets look good. Then the client walks in. Instantly she was the center of attention. The account guy fell over himself laughing at her jokes. It was the first time I had seen how an agency lives in low-level fear of the client. It was so new to me. Everyone's anxiety only served to increase my own. I wasn't too nervous to begin with, but watching everyone else get nervous made me nervous.

We started going over the shots. She asked some typical client questions, and made typical client comments. Then. When we were looking at one framing for a shot, she turned to me and said, "The lighting looks strange, we can't see the model, it's so dark, how do you intend to fix that?"

The whole table went silent and turned to look at me. I was on the spot. No one else could field the question because it had been specifically addressed to me. It was mine and mine alone. I needed a strong answer, and I needed that answer to come out quickly. Every millisecond I hesitated would blow my cover, would reveal that I didn't have any business running a print shoot for one of the most well-known brands in the country. How much money had they put into this shoot? How much had it cost to fly me up here? How much was my hotel room? What was the agency's fee for this job? All of it, ALL OF IT seemed to be jeopardized by my hesitation.

If my answer sucked, it would show everyone I didn't belong here. There would be phone calls, complaints that the agency had sent some inexperienced dolt to run things. I might get fired. Worse, I might get the agency fired.

Fuck it. I couldn't fake my way through this. I didn't care about impressing this woman. I cared about becoming the person that actually does this job.

I said, "We increase the light behind her to silhouette her head, then we put a soft light on her face. The background light will frame her but the front light will allow us to see her expression."

Thankfully, my art director brain had overridden my client ass-kissing brain and I had actually answered with a real solution, not a bullshit one. And it was an eye-opening moment. So what if I had never done this before? So what if this was my first shoot? I had trained for it, I had a passion for it, and I had earned the right to take a stab at this project, right now. If not me, who?

My answer made her smile. Its real confidence had won her over. I didn't have to fake it. The shoot turned out great. The campaign won One Show pencils. And I became an art director.

If not you, who?

My First Time.jpgMy First Time is available from all good bookstores including Amazon and for download on Amazon Kindle and iPad.

Here's a partial list (in alphabetical order) of the top global creative leaders in the book: David Angelo (Chairman, CCO, David&Goliath) Rosie Arnold (Deputy ECD, BBH/London) Nick Bailey (ECD, AKQA/Amsterdam) David Baldwin (Lead Guitar, Baldwin &) Jamie Barrett (Partner, ECD, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners) Susan Credle (N.A. CCO, Leo Burnett) Greg Di Noto (Partner, CCO, Deutsch, Inc./NY) Matt Eastwood (ECD DDB New York), Mark Fitzloff (Partner, Co-ECD, W&K/Portland) Ian Grais (CCO, CO-Founder, Rethink/Canada) Kevin McKeon (ECD, StrawberryFrog/NY) Robert Rasmussen (N.A. CCO,TribalDDB)  Kevin Roddy (CCO, Chairma, Publicis & Hal Riney/SF) Ted Royer (Partner, ECD, Droga5/NY) Mariano Serkin (CO-ECD, Del Campo Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi/Buenas Aires) Rob Strasberg (CCO, Vice Chairman, DONER) Carlos Vaca (President, ECD, BBDO/Mexico)

Phil Growick is managing director at executive search company The Howard-Sloan-Koller Group by day, and a published novelist by night.
Growick now also has a second book out - My First Time W.


James said:

Great story thanks....gotten a bit tired of this I was a bullfighter rock star and pimp routine.

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