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Iconic Greg Birbil speaks of “passion, optimism” during Campus lecture

Advertising guru Gregory Birbil gave an engaging and thought-provoking lecture on his “40 + Years in Global Advertising” at the DEREE Campus on October 23, prodding the audience to “love what you do, and don’t be demoralized by the economic crisis.”

Professor Daniel McCormac, head of the Communication Department at DEREE, welcomed the famed McCann Erickson adman, and thanked DEREE’s Communication Society for organizing the lecture – the first of a series of Communication Lectures that will be held throughout the academic year.

Vaso Diamanti, president of the Communication Society, introduced Greek-American Greg Birbil, outlining his multifaceted career that has seen him serve as CEO, President, Creative Director and Art Director in posts as varied as New York, Japan, London, South Africa, Mexico, and Greece, and thanked him for “sharing his memories from Madison Avenue.”

Addressing the packed Center for the Arts Auditorium, Birbil shared not just his memories, but his insights too, describing his favorite ad campaigns – including the Coca-Cola Wave at the 1986 Mexico World Cup – and revealed aspects of his creative process. He also urged those in the audience who want to get into advertising to do so “passionately” and not be “demoralized by a crisis or economic situation – though I know it really is rough.”

“New things always come out of these things,” he said referring to the economic crisis, adding, “All the great new companies happened during those times.” When asked by the audience, made up of students, faculty and guests, to describe his favorite decade in advertising, he chose the Sixties when he was in London, as “everything was changing in London… a time of creativity, when better advertising was done in comparison to what was being done before that. If you had asked Steve Jobs the same question, he would have said the late nineties because of his field.”

He found these six truths during his 40+ year advertising career:
“- People of all nations are more alike than I ever believed.
– Creativity is making people see things they know, but in a new way.
– Mentors, use them and be one
– Communication must reach the street…the consumer is king
– Love what you do!”

Gregory Birbil was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Greek parents and studied Fine Arts and Advertising at the Pratt Institute. After his studies, he joined McCann Erickson, one of the world’s largest advertising agencies and a leader during the golden advertising days of Madison Avenue. Birbil worked for the ground-breaking agency for more than 40 years, serving in positions such as art director, creative director, CEO and President in various countries around the world, including the US, Japan, South Africa, Mexico, the UK, and Greece.