Global Players: Q&A with Chuck Porter, CP + B

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After first joining the agency in the late 1980s as creative director and partner, Chuck Porter has since helped lead Crispin Porter + Bogusky to become one of the most awarded agencies in the world. Now, in addition to serving as partner and chairman of CP+B, Chuck keeps his hands in a variety of industry projects, including serving as chairman of the 4A’s, co-founder of the Boulder Digital Works Institute at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and previously as co-chairman of Advertising Week New York. AW360 spoke with Chuck about the state of the creative industry, the secret to CP+B’s unrivalled success over the years, and how storytelling remains at the core of what he does. 

AW360: CP+B began as a small shop and has since become one of the most awarded agencies in the world. After years of success, expansion, and changing leadership, how has CP+B ensured it remains true to the small shop it began as?

Chuck Porter: Nothing ever stays the same. We can’t be the way we were when there were 60 people in a little office in Miami trying to change the world. What we have done is diffuse our creative leadership so that each office has creative autonomy and owns the work it does. I think that’s the closest a big agency can get to the spirit and nimbleness of a small agency.

AW360: How, if at all, has global expansion transformed the CP+B brand?

CP: I think one thing it’s done is to make us a little broader and more inclusive. We got famous doing edgy work for young audiences. Now, I think we’re more confident and effective for a variety of audiences and clients. I guess that’s just part of growing up.

AW360: How do you maintain a sense of cohesiveness for the CP+B brand and messaging when overseeing and working within the various global markets?

CP: For one thing, we try to avoid financial competition. Our structure doesn’t incentivize one office to profit at the expense of another. Creative competition is good, financial competition can get ugly.

Also, we’re still small enough so that pretty much everyone knows each other.

We have regular meetings with the leaders from around the world which sounds terribly boring but isn’t. It’s sort of an intangible thing, but people from the various offices really seem to like each other. Or maybe that’s just what they tell me.

AW360: Tell us a bit about the CP+B global network — how does the integration of your factories and partner agencies help to create a more globally enriched experience tailored to your client’s needs?

CP: I don’t know about globally enriched experiences, even though we may have put that in a Powerpoint deck some time. Having offices around the world gives us really useful international expertise, but I think there’s more to it. Our offices are really elite teams of creative talent that we can deploy anywhere, anytime, to make the best work for our clients. That’s how a couple of people from brazil end up doing an award winning commercial in Norway.

AW360: You’ve talked a lot about the importance of storytelling in advertising. How has storytelling fundamentally changed in the digital age?

CP: The fundamental change is that stories have now become conversations. That means more work — you need to keep your messages always new and fresh because no one wants to have a conversation with someone who says the same thing all the time.

AW360: Does the push toward globalization put the art of storytelling at any sort of risk?

CP: I think it’s the opposite. We’re flooded with marketing and if you look at all the research, people find most of it irrelevant or annoying. In this world, great storytelling is more important than ever.

AW360: First it was the internet, then it was mobile. What are the biggest challenges the creative industry will face in the years to come?

CP: I don’t know what’s going to happen in the years to come, we’re pretty focused on doing something great next week. What I do know is this — any new technology is just another way to do something brilliant and a great story is probably going to be the killer app. Technology changes, but people don’t.

Chuck Porter will be speaking at the very first Advertising Week APAC starting July 30th in Sydney. To see other featured speakers have a look here.

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