David Lubars: Catching the Big Fish

By Andrew Robertson Posted on Sep 15, 2017

The stories behind the nominations for The One Club 2017 Creative Hall of Fame laureates

One Club's 2017 Creative Hall of Fame is only days away, and while much will be made of each inductee's bodies of work and other industry accomplishments, there are also very human stories behind the names you've seen in annuals and trade publications over the decades.

In our final profile of this year's Creative Hall of Fame laureates, BBDO Worldwide President & CEO Andrew Robertson reflects on his longtime professional and personal relationship with CCO of BBDO Worldwide and Chairman of BBDO North America — David Lubars.

The luckiest man in advertising? That would be me.

I have worked with two previous Hall of Famers: Phil Dusenberry and David Abbott

That, by any definition, makes me lucky.

But this year's honoree, David Lubars, has been my friend for more than 20 years, and my partner – we call each other our "work wife” – for thirteen. So far. 

That makes me the luckiest.

His transformational impact on creativity in our business is a matter of public record. That's what he has done. 

I want to focus on who he is and why, as a creative leader, I am so happy he is getting this recognition.

We met at a BBDO network meeting in Australia in 1996. He was running BBDO West, and I had recently joined AMV BBDO. I liked his restlessness. I still do.

When he was at Fallon, we would meet for lunch whenever he was in London. He would ask me questions about London; what was hot and why; who he should hire. I liked the fact that, unlike some, he didn't think he had all the answers. I still do.

In 2004, when I became CEO of BBDO Worldwide, I persuaded him to join us, over lunch at Morrell's. I arrived late and had forgotten my wallet, so he had to pay.  On our way out, I had to go to the bathroom.  He asked me if I needed him to do that for me, too. I liked his sense of humor. I still do.

My father passed away seven years ago. The following year, on the anniversary of his death, David wrote to my mom. He still does.  Every year. And whenever someone in our company is going through a tough time, he's the one who calls before he leaves the office at night. 

He cares about our clients and their businesses. He also calls them before he leaves the agency at night.

David has an unusual balance of unshakeable confidence – which you need for those around you to make new things happen – and paranoia, to make sure you never think you're done.

Disraeli said that "politics is the art of the possible." So is advertising. David is both a purist and a pragmatist. It's another unusual combination, invaluable in a creative leader.

David Lynch said, “Ideas are like fish. You can't make a fish.  You can only catch a fish."

Eight years ago, David (Lubars, not Lynch) was reviewing dozens of scripts for a Snickers Super Bowl commercial. Buried in one of them was a line: “You're not you when you're hungry."

He caught it.

Eight years on, it is still building that brand's business across all media and markets.

David Lubars knows how to catch fish.

Lots of them.

And really big ones.

The One Club 2017 Creative Hall of Fame takes place in New York City on Monday, September 18, and will induct industry luminaries Tom Burrell, Susan Hoffman, David Lubars, Rebeca Méndez and Diane Cook-Tench.



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