In an industry that prizes nothing more highly than egotistical superstars, Peter Crosby stands in stark contrast. He’s a humble San Francisco Bay Area Creative Director who plies his craft in hopes of countering the evil done to Advertising’s good name by the Snuggle Bear and its unholy ilk. Crosby sat down with himself recently to discuss how he got from where he started to where he is now.
ME: You were born in upstate New York, yet I understand you attended the University of Dayton. That seems like an odd choice for a career in advertising.
CROSBY: Well, when you think of great ad colleges, you think of Pratt or RISD, but I wanted an education that wouldn’t waste my time with theoretical nonsense. I wanted one that would teach me real-world advertising skills that I’d use on a daily basis, such as drinking (U.D. got an honorable mention as a top party school by Playboy Magazine but not because of me).
ME: Despite your current occupation as a copywriter, I noticed that you majored in Commercial Design as opposed to Journalism, Literature or, say...Beat Poetry. Why?
CROSBY: I felt, at the time, that my New York public school education had more than prepared me to uphold the strict tenets of copywriting. Plus, I really liked kerning type.
ME: Hey, who doesn’t? It says here you started out as an Assistant Art Director at Hutchins/Y&R, Art Director at Winterkorn Lillis [both Rochester] and Sr. Art Director at Montgomery Zukerman Davis [Indianapolis]. Then you began writing copy as well at Paradigm Communications [Tampa], The Zimmerman Agency [Tallahassee], Turkel, Schwartz & Partners and McFarland & Drier [both Miami]. Frankly, I’ve never heard of any of these advertising agencies. Did you just make them up to pad your resume?
CROSBY: I wish. Look, I was young, mistakes were made.
ME: I’ll say. You spent almost five years in Florida and yet never worked at Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Why not?
CROSBY: Turns out they don’t respond well to either threats or desperate begging.
ME: But surely your wife worked there, couldn’t she have gotten you a job?
CROSBY: You’d think.
ME: Pity. You next worked at Odiorne Wilde Narraway & Partners in San Francisco, whose main account was Electronic Arts, the videogame behemoth.
CROSBY: Yes. I was there for eight years. I started as a Copywriter, got promoted to Senior Copywriter and then ACD.
ME: You did video game ads for eight years?
CROSBY: Yes. Pretty much just video games.
ME: Wow, that had to drive you borderline insane.
CROSBY: ...what’s your point?
ME: Oh, nothing. Never mind.
CROSBY: No, no, what are you implying?
ME: Well, you are interviewing yourself...
ME: Uh, okay then...What made you decide to move to See: of San Francisco?
CROSBY: I needed a change. But not a big one. I wanted to keep the same address, phone number, coworkers and clients. And See: was willing to make that happen.
CROSBY: I'll say. I didn't even have to change desks.
ME: So after See:, you freelanced at OgilvyOne for a year on the Yahoo! account doing interactive banner ads and micro-sites.
CROSBY: Yes, I'd always admired David Ogilvy for taking the idea of a man's home being his castle so literally. For most people, that saying is just a metaphor.
ME: Would you like to be that filthy rich someday?
CROSBY: No, because I'm in advertising for the love of it. Commercializing the occupation would just cheapen it, you know?
ME: No, no...I don't. Then you became Senior Copywriter at FCB/SF, is that correct?
CROSBY: Yes, it's called DraftFCB now.
ME: Oh, right. FCB got acquired by Draft, the direct mail agency. Was that a big change?
CROSBY: Yes...totally new business cards.
ME: Ouch. Did you need counseling afterwards?
CROSBY: No, I was one of the lucky ones...
ME: Tragic. Then you were CD at Buder Engel, how'd that work out?
CROSBY: Let's just say, nothing good ever lasts...
ME: Touché. And so, now you're freelancing again.
CROSBY: Now, I'm freelancing again.
ME: Well, then let’s talk a little about your work—several of your ads contain virtually no copy at all. Could you explain that so I don’t assume that you’re just incredibly lazy?
CROSBY: Having been both an Art Director and a Copywriter, I approach ads visually as well as verbally. Though these days, visual solutions are often better because people don’t generally read more than a few lines of any text.
ME: Are you saying that nobody’s going to read this entire interview?
CROSBY: Frankly, I’d be surprised.
ME: Really? Well...might as well wrap it up then. Is that the exit?
CROSBY: Wait, don’t you wanna hear about my website?
ME: Not particularly.
CROSBY: I made it myself...
ME: Fascinating. Thanks for your time.
San Francisco Bay Area