We sat down with Alex Bogusky who is responsible for some of the greatest advertising campaigns ever, and more recently, an entrepreneur helping grow various important businesses.
Tell us about your kids, what’s it like being a father?
Our kids are a bit older (14 and 17) so at this point I almost forget what it’s like NOT to be a father. But the words that come to mind are Dickens’, “It was the best of times it was the worst of times.” Kids are like a magnifying glass applied to your life. Every high is higher and every low is lower. My kids have probably been two of my best teachers. They’re so sweet and soft and squishy. Not in a physical sense but spiritually so I mean that as the highest compliment. My wife is probably as sweet as they are so that might explain some of it.
Talk to us about your parenting style.
When they were young, we were a bit more strict than Ana and I would have predicted. Our kids were never the ones bouncing off the walls in a restaurant. Our friends thought it was weird that we rarely if ever raised our voices or repeated ourselves. If they noticed we would occasionally just whisper “X”. All it meant was that they might lose a bedtime story or a privilege they really liked. Three Xs and they would lose a privilege. So it gave them some wiggle room but it meant that they weren’t constantly testing us, which you see so often. The crazy thing was their friends would visit and we’d tell them about our system and they loved it. Kids are happy and feel safe when they know boundaries. Now teenagers is a different deal!
Favorite piece of clothing you wear with them or favorite piece of clothing you dress them in?
My son has been stealing any cool piece of clothing I get for the last two years. Often before I ever even get a chance to wear the item. It was a source of big laughs in the family but it was actually frustrating sometimes. A couple months ago I finally “borrowed” something of his- a navy blue cardigan. I loved wearing it around because all day it reminded me of him. It made me realize at least part of why he was always wearing my clothes and now I take it as the ultimate compliment.
What do you do for fun with the kids?
As a family we like to ski and ride bikes and do the beach. We all have a lot of crafty sort of projects going on at any given time. My son works in leather and wood. My wife and daughter are into fashion and so they are sewing and knitting all the time. We just like each others’ company which is nice. Next year my son goes to college so we can feel the window on that closing. He and I get a bit more extreme in our skiing and riding. But it’s not really about the activity. You realize you’ll do whatever it is so you can just be together. I’ll take up bowling if I have to. Even golf.
What’s the one thing you can’t live without as a Dad?
I like to feel like they need me. It’s the only job I have that nobody else can do. Somebody can run my businesses. Somebody can be a friend to my friends but I’m the only one that can be their dad. Some days that keeps me going.
Tell us more what you are up to? Life after CPB?
My wife likes to joke that I launch a new company every month. That’s ridiculous but I do keep busy. Last year I helped startup two new ad agencies. MadeMovement which is dedicated to clients that help create jobs in America. And Humanaut which helps startups scale and helps big companies act like startups. Last month we launched a tech accelerator here in Boulder called Boomtown. We are just now finalizing our first class from 150 applications and there are some really cool companies. As you get older you really start to enjoy the mentoring thing. It has hit me like a ton of bricks.
Common has launched a marketplace for Socially Conscious companies and Fearless is where I work with non-profits and on issues like sugar and GMO labeling. Skoop is a super foods company that we launched 5 months ago and soon we will be able to announce a new structure that will mean that 10% of every purchase will go to fixing food in our schools. I’m probably forgetting a bunch of stuff but that’s the stuff that I’m most excited about.
Creativity and your kids? Life at CPB while having kids etc?
I think being in a creative field has allowed my kids to see that you can use your creativity to make a living. But there are lots of creative people that still wind up working just for the money. I think what Ana and I try to instill is that they live their values. Spend the time to figure out what it is that makes you happy first. What is really authentic? What would you do for free? Figure out what that is and give yourself the permission to pursue that. Money will come. Or maybe it won’t. But if you get the first part right you get caught up in the pursuit of just financial success.
As far as being a parent and running an agency I would have told you at the time that I was doing a good job at both. But the reality was I was out of town about half the time. My son didn’t seem to mind but my daughter held it against me. After I left CP+B and was around every day I noticed that we got closer and closer. For 6 months we got closer every day. This was wonderful but it was also sad to realize what had been missing before. In our lives there is sometimes a person who is letting us know what we’re not getting right. It sometimes feels like nagging when you have a zillion things going on but it’s worth taking the time to listen to that voice and consider that they might be right.
FOR MORE FROM ALEX, FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER @bogusky.