Brad Williams Q&A

August 23, 2021
Brad Williams started as a temp at Saatchi and now is a vice president at Fast Horse.

“How many of us remember jingles, taglines, products and brand actions long after their original shelf lives? They can become our catchphrases, inside jokes and cultural touchpoints of a moment in time. We carry the good ones in our minds for years. That’s why craft in our business still matters despite so much pressure on process, cost control and the race to the middle.”

You’re well versed in overseeing the whole lifespan of a campaign, from the idea through production. How do you protect the initial inspiration through all those internal hoops? 

For me, the critical questions to return to in a pinch are always: What are we trying to accomplish? What’s the core of the idea? and What will our audience think of this? If you can keep these three things in mind as a lens across both the development and execution of a campaign, you’ll make smart decisions when faced with navigating a raft of different opinions.

What is your favorite memory of being on a commercial shoot?

Years ago, I was in Morocco for a shoot, and our team was staying in a hotel in a small town in an arid locale. Aside from our agency and client team, the only other residents there were the production crew and cast for an American miniseries called “The Bible.” There wasn’t much to do there in the evenings beside hanging in the bar. You haven’t lived until you can say you bought Jesus a beer in the desert.

Who was one of your first mentors?

I’ll give you two: Barbara Giuffre and Mary Brownell — I worked with them at Bates USA and then at JWT after WPP’s buyout of the old Cordiant holding company back in 2003. Barbara and Mary are two extremely whip-smart, bold, strategic women, and they taught me how to champion strategies and ideas, the discipline required for the ad game and how to use your own voice and have a little chutzpah when necessary. I owe them a ton.

What first got you interested in marketing?

My first job out of college was as a sales rep in Birmingham. Over time, I became less interested in delivering the same pre-determined message and more intrigued with the craft and process of developing it. I moved to New York and started my career over as a temp receptionist at Saatchi Healthcare just to get my foot in the door.

After two decades and a wheelbarrow of awards, what do you still love about it?

Too often I think folks in the industry can get lost in standing on ceremony. For me, the joy is in being part of solving the puzzle and the payoff of knowing that something I had a part in impacted someone’s life in some way. Brands help shape culture, but only through how people spend time with the things we put out there.  If the audience finds value in it, they’ll spend time with it and it becomes a little part of them. How many of us remember jingles, taglines, products and brand actions long after their original shelf-lives? They can become our catchphrases, inside jokes and cultural touchpoints of a moment in time. We carry the good ones in our minds for years. That’s why craft in our business still matters despite so much pressure on process, cost control and the race to the middle. Folks in our line of work like to say “It’s just advertising, we’re not saving lives” as a way to take the pressure off of a deadline or a tough brief. I actually think it is OK to take our work seriously because when we do, we increase the odds of doing something interesting that will bring a useful product to someone, nudge culture or add entertainment value to life.

Your full name is Bradford. Does anyone in your life still have Bradford rights?  

Anyone can call me Bradford. I’ve been called much worse.

You went to Auburn University. Who’s bigger there: Bo or Barkley? 

The Round Mound of Rebound is everywhere these days, but they don’t call the 1982 Iron Bowl “Bo Over the Top” for nothing.