Headline Makers: Rob Reilly, Global Creative Chairman, McCann Worldgroup

When we tried to interview Rob in Cannes, we found he'd literally lost his voice; probably while accepting awards. Luckily he agreed to answer our questions by mail a few days later.

by Mark Tungate , AdForum


Fearless Girl, Immunity Charm, Beyond Money…it’s been a hell of a creative ride for McCann this year. You once said that the secret was to “hire great people and get out of the way”. Can you give us a few more tips?

Well, I certainly think hiring great people and then letting them do their job is the best tip I can give. I hired Eric Silver 2.5 years ago and he has really done an amazing job raising the standard of work in our New York office. A Fearless Girl doesn’t happen without his leadership. In India, we have one of the most celebrated creatives of all time in Prasoon Joshi. He was here at McCann well before I arrived and continues to make us proud every year. As for Beyond Money, it is quite a story. We asked Miguel Bemfica to move to Spain from London 10 months ago to reboot MRM//McCann. To do what he and his team did for Santander Bank is just remarkable. Of course, all three of these pieces of work had great clients behind them. We are very lucky to have such fantastic partners.


What’s the latest on Fearless Girl: does it look like she’ll be given permanent residence?

Fearless Girl will be up a while longer. But no word on whether she will be permanent. Though, I’m not sure the world will allow her to be removed. She is much bigger than advertising at this point. It’s up to the City of New York. We will see.



Fearless Girl is a good example of a brand getting embroiled in a debate that’s much bigger than itself. How hard is it to get clients to make that leap?

I am a firm believer in purpose-led marketing. To me, it is real marketing. Brands can play a meaningful role in people’s lives. And it doesn’t have to be at the expense of making a profit. I hope we see more brands jumping in to help fix the issues we are currently facing. It’s good for the world and good for business when we get it right.


People sometimes say “this job would be great if it wasn’t for the clients”. But I know you don’t feel that way. How do you balance your clients’ needs with the agency’s?

Who says that? There would be no business without clients. Advertising is not art. It is a business. But it takes a tremendous amount of artistry to do breakthrough work and a great combination of artists to pull it off.  But our job as agency partners is to make the brands we work with wildly successful.


You were at Crispin Porter for 10 years, no less. How much of that culture did you bring with you to McCann?

There is only one culture that I believe in. That culture is winning. Winning fixes everything. That was the culture at CP+B. Maybe I brought that belief to McCann. But there were a lot of smart and talented people here before I arrived. I just implemented a lot of things here at McCann that I learned from Alex Bogusky, Andrew Keller, Laura Bowles, Jeff Hicks, Danielle Whalen, Winston Binch, Jeff Benjamin and many others.


What are your thoughts on the “should we or shouldn’t we enter awards” debate?

To me, awards are the by-product, never the motivation. I never get too high or too low. If I did, I’d probably be curled up in a ball in the corner of my office with a goblet of whiskey every day.

Questions by Mark Tungate