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Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Anti-Sweetheart

Last time I talked of the pleasure of meeting up with Diane Lane. This time, the anti-sweetheart of the ad world is chronicled. You don’t know him by name, but you know his type oh too well. He’s the kind of guy who can ruin Valentine’s Day, Christmas and the Fourth of July in the same year. The kind of guy who squeezes a penny so hard Lincoln cries.

For a man from Joy, Illinois, Jeffery Crowe is one of the least happy people you've ever met.

If he's not The Most Hated Man in Advertising, he's in the running. His appearance is typically that of a man with hemorrhoids and acid indigestion. He looks everywhere but into your eyes. It's even money as to which he enjoys more – sneering or yelling.

Once, in his first year at the agency, an hour before the American Music Awards, iconic Dick Clark was trying to explain something to Crowe about program flow and stage direction. Except Crowe wasn't looking at Clark. He was tuning his two-way walkie-talkie.

"I'm trying to talk to you!" Clark objected.

It didn't help. Crowe was head down deep in though. Finally, Clark slapped the walkie out of Crowe's hands, smashing it to the floor.

He paid attention after that.

One time, a nameless CBS executive thought it would be helpful for Crowe and positive thinking guru Tony Robbins to have lunch. He let Crowe drink in some of Robbins' perspectives.

The three of them united at a Santa Monica eatery. Robbins, positive and outgoing as ever, tried to convey some insight. Except Crowe wasn't looking at Robbins. He wasn't looking at the CBS executive, either. He was looking at the stock report. The whole time. With his Wall Street Journal handy to take notes in. Robbins did not leave impressed.

Only one problem. He’s a genius. A creative director’s dream and an agency executive’s nightmare. So when a new agency head hits town, before they set their Samsonites down, they’re already redlining Crowe from the agency masthead. Funny thing is, almost no one stands up for him.

Crowe was boxed up and booted from the New York agency scene and landed in Los Angeles. Awards aplenty and an attitude to top it. It's a huge moment for Crowe, if only because his disdain for making nice means everything rides on brilliance.

"In New York, they want to kick you in the b***s," says his new creative director Donald Cassidy. "In Boston, they don't care about you. But in L.A, they want to love you. They want to make a connection with you. Any kind of connection. But Jeff doesn't really care."

Crowe could own L.A. if he wanted. In a city that is so laid back, you are horizontal; Crowe could have his name on half the billboards and all the awards. My goodness, the Enigma as he’s called, doesn't even try. He has zero loyalty from all of the people he’s made wads of cash for and doesn't want any. If there is such a thing as a Jeffery Crowe Fan Club, he is having a membership drive -- to drive them out.

If you're a client marketing director looking for a helpful answer out of Jeffery Crowe, good luck.

Marketing Director (in a conference call): What happened in that focus group, Jeffery?

Crowe: We tested the product.

Marketing Director: Right, but what did you see developing there? Take us through it.

Crowe (archly): It seemed like a good place to understand likes and dislikes.

Crowe is the kind of guy you just want to pick up and throw into a swimming pool, which is exactly what Dennis Hopper and Margeaux Hemingway did one year after a Friars Club Roast.

"He's an conceited little jerk," Hopkins, once said on a national show. "He's a little wuss."

Harsh? Yes.

Heard before? Yes.

Crowe's new L.A. agency teammates will defend him, when asked. "It's surprising to me how people form a belief of a guy who've never even met him," says new copywriter, Marisa David, a close friend.

So what's the truth?

"He is what he is," David says.

Not exactly something for your tombstone.

So why is Crowe as popular as cancer?

Is it because he never makes eye contact?

Is it his seeming inability to answer a question without displaying his massive amount of ego?

Is it jealousy from all of his awards?

Is it his penchant for making things difficult?

"Deep, deep down, I think he's a really good guy," David says.


But why do we have to look that deep?